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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative December 2019 news and views

Note: Excerpts are from the authors' words except for subheads and occasional "Editor's notes" such as this. 

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To our readers, warmest regards for a Happy New Year! (Photo: Flower collage at the Botanical Gardens in Washington, DC.)

A Holiday Tall Tale

Dec. 31

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Protesters chanting ‘Death to America’ break into U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, Dec. 31, 2019. Diplomats were trapped inside as angry supporters of an Iran-backed militia protested U.S. airstrikes that killed or wounded scores of militia fighters near the Iraqi-Syrian border on Sunday. Tensions eased somewhat later in the day after Iraqi security forces intervened, erecting a steel barrier at the smashed gate into the compound's reception area and forcing the protesters to leave the compound.

● U.S. diplomats took refuge in a safe room as guards fired tear gas at the invading protesters and tried to put out fires they set.

● President Trump accused Iran of “orchestrating an attack” on the embassy.

● Iraqi security forces later intervened and set up a barricade, but protesters threw gasoline bombs into the compound.

● The Kataib Hezbollah militia vowed to force the embassy to shut down.

ny times logoNew York Times, Australia Fires Push Thousands Toward Shorelines, Isabella Kwai, Dec. 31, 2019. The country’s east coast was dotted Australian flagwith apocalyptic scenes on the last day of the warmest decade on record in Australia.

Australia is in the grip of a devastating fire season, with months of summer still to go, as record-breaking temperatures, strong winds and prolonged drought have ignited huge blazes across the country.

ny times logoChina FlagNew York Times, Inside China’s Push to Turn Muslim Minorities Into an Army of Workers, Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy, Dec. 31, 2019 (print ed.). The Communist Party wants to remold Xinjiang’s minorities into loyal blue-collar workers to supply Chinese factories with cheap labor.

Donald and Melania Trump pose at Mar-a-Lago with China's premier and his wife in April, 2017

Donald and Melania Trump pose at Mar-a-Lago with China's premier Xi Jingpin and his wife in April, 2017 (White House photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Initial U.S.-China trade deal’s big hole: Beijing’s massive business subsidies, David J. Lynch, Dec. 31, 2019. Subsidies, in the form of discounted loans, cheap land, inexpensive electricity and more, are marbled throughout China’s state-led economy. This edge often makes it difficult for U.S. businesses to compete.

ny times logoNew York Times, North Korea Is No Longer Bound by Nuclear Test Moratorium, Kim Says, Choe Sang-Hun, Dec. 31, 2019. Kim Jong-un, the North’s leader, also said the world would witness a new strategic weapon “in the near future.”

  • New York Times, Trump Warns Iran as Risk of Wider Armed Conflict Grows, The growing crisis strained Mr. Trump’s aversion to a military clash with Iran as well as any deeper entanglements in the Middle East.

U.S. Courtsdjt lev parnas Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Lev Parnas has a New Year’s Eve surprise for Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 31, 2019. Weeks ago it was reported that Lev Parnas (shown above at left in a mug shot) has turned over evidence in Donald Trump’s Ukraine extortion scandal to the House Intelligence Committee.

Chairman Adam Schiff then confirmed that at least some evidence had indeed been turned over. But none of it ended up being used in House impeachment hearings, thus suggesting it wasn’t all that important. Now, however, that’s apparently about to change.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen federal prosecutors arrested Lev Parnas and executed related search warrants, they seized a whole bunch of his stuff. As per procedure, he’s scheduled to get that evidence back on Tuesday, so he can use it to mount his legal defense. Parnas is now asking the judge to allow him to immediately hand that evidence over to Congress – and prosecutors say they’re fine with it.

This means that all the Ukraine scandal evidence that prosecutors have against Lev Parnas, which prosecutors believe is enough to put Parnas in prison, is about to be in the hands of Adam Schiff. Talk about a New Year’s Eve surprise. This evidence presumably includes all of Lev’s electronic devices, including text messages, call logs, you name it.

If the evidence that Lev Parnas previously gave to the House wasn’t particularly usable, it was probably because the Feds were still sitting on Parnas’ communications devices. Now the House is about to gets its hands on more substantive evidence against Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani. Keep in mind that Nancy Pelosi still has yet to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. She has the option to hold more hearings and even bring additional articles of impeachment. Stay tuned.

  •  New York Times, Judge Orders Alex Jones and Infowars to Pay $100,000 in Sandy Hook Legal Fees
  •  New York Times, Judge Dismisses Lawsuit by Ex-Trump Aide Subpoenaed in Impeachment Inquiry

U.S. Politics

 ny times logoNew York Times, Panel With Trump Appointees Says E.P.A. Rollbacks Lack Scientific Rigor, Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, Dec. 31, 2019. An E.P.A. advisory panel said that three of the Trump administration’s proposals to weaken environmental regulations are at odds with established science.

● Washington Post, Trump accuses Democrats of avoiding Senate trial to protect Bidens
● Washington Post, Sanders releases doctors’ letters saying he’s fit for presidency, three months after heart attack

U.S. Shootings

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas law protecting armed churchgoers debated after congregant kills gunman, Abigail Hauslohner, Deanna Paul and Kim Bellware, Dec. 31, 2019 (print ed.). The state legislature passed a measure allowing armed volunteers in places of worship after a 2017 shooting left 26 people dead at a Texas church.

Top Texas officials on Monday cited the actions of several armed churchgoers who subdued a gunman in their sanctuary this weekend as a model of how Americans should protect themselves from potential mass shooters.

The attack, after which two church members and the gunman were dead, came two years after the Texas legislature passed a law that authorized anyone with a concealed-carry license to bring their weapon into houses of worship. That law was a response to the 2017 attack on a church in Sutherland Springs that left 26 people dead before a local resident shot the gunman outside the building and forced him to flee.

The shooter who attacked West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, a suburb of Fort Worth, on Sunday was killed by a single shot from church member Jack Wilson, a former reserve sheriff’s deputy and Army veteran.

Global Justice

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Nissan boss flees to Lebanon, slams Japan’s justice system, Simon Denyer,  Dec. 31, 2019. It’s unclear how Carlos Ghosn, the ousted auto executive — who holds Lebanese, French and Brazilian citizenship — managed to leave Japan, where he was on bail on charges of financial misconduct and had surrendered his passports.

Dec. 30

U.S. Investigations

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell, Katherine Stewart (author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism) and Caroline Fredrickson (president emerita of the American Constitution Society and author of The Democracy Fix), Dec. 30, 2019 (print ed.).  And he’s on a mission to use the “authority” of the executive branch to stop it. Details below.

washington post logoWashington Post, Quiet sale of church-owned mansion helped obscure disgraced bishop’s lavish tastes, Aaron C. Davis, Dec. 30, 2019. michael bransfieldAfter Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, right, was banished from his post as head of the Catholic Church in West Virginia, the church-owned residence he had lived in was put up for sale. It was a historic 9,200-square-foot Colonial Revival-style house with five bay windows that was once known as Elmcrest. Bransfield had spent $4.6 million to restore it to his exacting taste.

The diocese did not hire a real estate agent, advertise the property’s sale online or hold an open house. Instead, as allegations of sexual and financial misconduct against Bransfield spilled into public view in June, the church sold the property to a wealthy Wheeling, W.Va., resident for $1.2 million.

2020 U.S. Elections

democratic donkey logony times logoNew York Times, The Stock Market Is Booming, but Democrats Say: Look Who’s Been Left Out, Jeremy W. Peters and Sydney Ember, Dec. 30, 2019. In Iowa, Democratic candidates sought to undercut President Trump’s core message of a strong economy by making the case that it isn’t working for the right people.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Presidential Nominating Process Is Absurd, David Leonhardt, right, Dec. 30, 2019. The current system may seem as if it’s simply david leonhardt thumban expression of democracy, but it’s not. It’s one version of democracy. And it’s one that virtually no other country uses. In other democracies, political parties have more sway in selecting the nominee, and voters then choose among the major nominees. Until recently, the United States also gave party leaders a larger role in selecting nominees.

dnc square logoToday’s leaders have abdicated this job, afraid to do anything that might appear elitist because it substitutes the judgment of experts for that of ordinary citizens.

A better approach would balance snapshots of popular opinion with rules more likely to produce strong, qualified nominees.

The first change should be to the debates. The candidates’ electoral history and qualifications currently count for nothing. The 2020 Democratic field, for example, has included four two-term governors, all of whom have been excluded from debates despite a track record of winning votes and governing successfully. In their place have been candidates, like [Andrew] Yang, who managed to crack 4 percent in a few polls.

The seven candidates who made the last Democratic debate stage all have their strengths, but as a group, they offer an indictment of the nomination process. There are three candidates in their 70s — and no African-American or Latino. There are two people who have never won an election — and zero who have ever run a state.

Of course, the biggest sign that the process is broken isn’t any of those seven. It is the man in the Oval Office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Rebounds, Warren Slows: What We Know About the 2020 Money Race, Shane Goldmacher, Dec. 30, 2019.  An Democratic and Republican Campaigns Decodedearly look at fourth-quarter fund-raising shows that Joe Biden is bouncing back, Elizabeth Warren is lagging, and Bernie Bernie Sanders OfficialSanders, below, is on a roll.

The shifting financial fortunes of Ms. Warren and Mr. Biden illustrate the unsettled nature of the Democratic presidential contest heading into 2020, with four candidates battling for position in the top tier of polling and seeking to bolster their treasuries ahead of the final sprint to the Iowa caucuses and beyond.

The Grayzone, The spooks’ choice: Coup plotters and CIA agents fill Pete Buttigieg’s list of national security endorsers, Samuel D. Finkelstein, Dec. 30, 2020. Why are so many intelligence veterans throwing their weight behind a young Indiana mayor with such a thin foreign policy resume?

These questions continue to loom large over the 2020 Democratic primary field: Who is Pete Buttigieg? And what is he doing here?

Seemingly overnight, the once obscure mayor of Indiana’s fourth-largest city was vaulted to national prominence, with his campaign coffers stuffed with big checks from billionaire benefactors.

pete buttigieg 2020 button croppedThe publication of a list of 218 endorsements from “foreign policy and national security professionals” by Buttigieg’s campaign deepened the mystery of the mayor’s rise.

Some observers have raised questions about Pete Buttigieg’s intimate relationship with the national security state, after it was revealed that his campaign had paid nearly $600,000 for “security” to a Blackwater-style military contractor.

Buttigieg’s new roster of endorsements from former high-ranking CIA officials, regime-change architects, and global financiers should raise more questions about the real forces propelling his campaign.

Buttigieg has offered precious few details about his policy plans, and foreign policy is no exception. His campaign website dedicates just five sentences to international affairs, none of which offers any substantive details.

Beyond a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan as a Naval Reservist in 2010, the 37 year-old mayor has no first-hand foreign policy experience to speak of.

As The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal reported, Buttigieg’s enjoys a long relationship with the Truman National Security Project, a foreign policy think tank in Washington, DC that advocates for “muscular liberalism.” He has also taken a short, strange trip to Somaliland with a Harvard buddy, Nathaniel Myers, who ultimately became a senior advisor to USAID’s Office of Transitional Initiatives. Otherwise, Buttigieg’s foreign policy credentials are nil.

Buttigieg’s lack of core principles are what might make him so attractive to military contractors and financial institutions, two of the status quo’s biggest beneficiaries.

Mayor Pete has effectively positioned himself as a Trojan Horse for the establishment, offering “generational change” that doesn’t challenge existing power structures in any concrete way.

Politico, Mark Meadows accused of timing retirement to help elect wife’s friend, Ally Mutnick, Dec. 30, 2019. Republicans in Western North Carolina are grumbling about his last-minute announcement, which boxed out a number of elected officials.

mark meadows SmallRep. Mark Meadows' shock retirement — revealed just 30 hours before the filing deadline in North Carolina — has roiled some Republicans in the state who suspect he timed his announcement to benefit a friend of his wife.

The four-term congressman will depart the House for an as-yet-undefined role with President Donald Trump, a decision he disclosed in an interview with POLITICO Playbook that published around 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 19, ahead of the filing deadline at noon on Dec. 20.

Later that day came a campaign launch by Lynda Bennett, a local GOP activist and real estate agent who is friendly with Debbie Meadows, the congressman's wife, according to sources who know both women.

Wary Republicans in the state quickly speculated that she had advance notice of Meadows' retirement.

Online records revealed her campaign website domain had been registered on Oct. 28 by a Scott Meadows, who appears to be the brother of the congressman. The campaign's Facebook page was created on Dec. 18, a day before the retirement. And shortly after midnight on Dec. 19 — about five hours before Meadows announced — Bennett posted photos of herself with the congressman and his wife at local GOP events in the state.

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, John Lewis, Congressman and Civil Rights Icon, Has Pancreatic Cancer, Emily Cochrane, Dec. 30, 2019 (print ed.). Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia and an icon of the civil rights movement, announced on Sunday that he had advanced pancreatic cancer, but planned to return to Washington to continue work and begin treatment.

john lewis official“I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life,” Mr. Lewis, 79, said in a statement. “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.”

Survival rates for pancreatic cancer are grim, and Mr. Lewis said his cancer was Stage 4, the most advanced. Mr. Lewis said that while he was “cleareyed about the prognosis,” doctors had told him that advances in medical treatment would help give him “a fighting chance.”

“I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the beloved community,” Mr. Lewis said. “We still have many bridges to cross.”

ny times logoNew York Times, How Big Companies Won New Tax Breaks From the Trump Administration, Jesse Drucker and Jim Tankersley, Dec. 30, 2019. The 2017 overhaul of the federal law reduced the tax burden for big companies, but a irs logolobbying effort created a windfall for corporations.

The budget deficit has jumped over 50 percent since President Trump took office and is expected to top $1 trillion in 2020, partly as a result of the law.

U.S. Foreign Policy

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside Trump’s Ukraine Aid Freeze: 84 Days of Dissent and Confusion, Eric Lipton, Maggie Haberman and Mark Mazzetti, Dec. 30, 2019 (print ed.). The inside story of President Trump’s demand to halt military assistance to an ally shows the price he was willing to pay to carry out his agenda.

The Democratic-led inquiry into Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine this spring and summer established that the president was actively involved in parallel efforts — both secretive and highly unusual — to bring pressure on a country he viewed with suspicion, if not disdain.

 washington post logomike pompeo o sec stateWashington Post, Pompeo set to visit Ukraine amid impeachment drama on Capitol Hill, John Wagner, Dec. 30, 2019. The trip by Pompeo (right), which will include a meeting with the country’s president, is intended “to reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a State Department spokesman said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani was on 2018 call with Maduro as part of shadow effort to ease him out, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Anthony Faiola and Josh Dawsey, Dec. 30, 2019. The conversation involving Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, below left, and Rudolph W. Giuliani, right, illustrates how President Trump’s lawyer used his private role to insert himself into rudy giulianidiplomacy.

The international call came in September 2018, after months of rising tension between the United States and Venezuela, a key strategic player in South America.

nicolas maduro customOn one end of the line was Venezuela’s socialist president, the pariah leader of a disintegrating economy whom President Trump’s administration was seeking to isolate.

On the other end: the U.S. president’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and then-Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.).

Both were part of a shadow diplomatic effort, backed in part by private interests, aimed at engineering a negotiated exit to ease Maduro from power and reopen resource-rich Venezuela to business, according to people familiar with the endeavor.

 wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Foreign election meddling requires an international treaty banning the practice, Wayne Madsen, left, Dec. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small30, 2019. When it comes to foreign meddling in elections, no organization has been more guilty than the Central Intelligence Agency. Ever since it was established in 1947, the CIA has been interfering in the elections of other nations, primarily by distributing propaganda favoring pro-U.S. political parties and demonizing parties that were opposed to postwar American hegemony.

In addition, the CIA and affiliated institutions like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the U.S. Information Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and others have directly or indirectly provided pro-U.S. political parties with financial assistance.

Trump Impeachment

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Explosive new revelations just weakened Trump’s impeachment defenses, Greg Sargent, Dec. 30, 2019. If Mitch McConnell is going to pull off his scheme to turn President Trump’s impeachment trial into a quick and painless sham with no witnesses, the Senate majority leader needs the story to be covered as a conventional Washington standoff — one that portrays both sides as maneuvering for advantage in an equivalently political manner.

But extraordinary new revelations in the New York Times about Trump’s corrupt freezing of military aid to Ukraine will — or should — make this much harder to get away with.

mitch mcconnell elevator getty croppedMcConnell, right, badly needs the media’s both-sidesing instincts to hold firm against the brute facts of the situation. If Republicans bear the brunt of media pressure to explain why they don’t want to hear from witnesses, that risks highlighting their true rationale: They adamantly fear new revelations precisely because they know Trump is guilty — and that this corrupt scheme is almost certainly much worse than we can currently surmise.

That possibility is underscored by the Times report, a chronology of Trump’s decision to withhold aid to a vulnerable ally under assault while he and his henchmen extorted Ukraine into carrying out his corrupt designs.

The report demonstrates in striking detail that inside the administration, the consternation over the legality and propriety of the aid freeze — and confusion over Trump’s true motives — ran much deeper than previously known, implicating top Cabinet officials more deeply than we thought.

U.S. Attacks, Religious Strife

washington post logoWashington Post, Gunman fatally shot 2 in Texas church before parishioners returned fire, authorities say, Tony Romm, Dec. 30, 2019. A gunman opened fire in a church in White Settlement, Tex., on Sunday, killing two parishioners, according to authorities, who said they are still trying to determine a motive in the attack.

washington post logoWashington Post, Acts of anti-Semitism are on the rise around the country, leaving Jewish community rattled, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 30, 2019. Hours after a knife-wielding man barged into a Hanukkah party in a New York suburb, stabbing five people, top officials condemned the crime as part of a disturbing trend. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called it "domestic terrorism," linking it to the recent spate of violence against Jewish people in New York.

Anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise around the country, leaving members of the Jewish community feeling frightened and unsafe. In New York City, anti-Semitic crimes have jumped 21 percent in the past year. According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were 1,879 incidents of anti-Semitism in the United States in 2018, including more than 1,000 instances of harassment.

“This is a national phenomenon that we are seeing and it’s frightening and it’s disturbing,” New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said after Sunday’s stabbing in Monsey, N.Y.

Department of Injustice?

djt william barr doj photo march 2019

Attorney General William Barr. Under him, the Justice Department has been notable for aiding conservative Christians.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell, Katherine Stewart (author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism) and Caroline Fredrickson (president emerita of the American Constitution Society and author of The Democracy Fix), Dec. 30, 2019 (print ed.).  And he’s on a mission to use the “authority” of the executive branch to stop it.

Why would a seemingly respectable, semiretired lion of the Washington establishment undermine the institutions he is sworn to uphold, incinerate his own reputation, and appear to willfully misrepresent the reports of special prosecutors and inspectors general, all to defend one of the most lawless and corrupt presidents in American history? And why has this particular attorney general appeared at this pivotal moment in our Republic?

A deeper understanding of William Barr is emerging, and it reveals something profound and disturbing about the evolution of conservatism in 21st-century America.

Some people have held that Mr. Barr is simply a partisan hack — willing to do whatever it takes to advance the interests of his own political party and its leadership. This view finds ample support in Mr. Barr’s own words. In a Nov. 15 speech at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention in Washington, he accused President Trump’s political opponents of “unprecedented abuse” and said they were “engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.”

Another view is that Mr. Barr is principally a defender of a certain interpretation of the Constitution that attributes maximum power to the executive. This view, too, finds ample support in Mr. Barr’s own words. In July, when President Trump claimed, in remarks to a conservative student group, “I have an Article II where I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” it is reasonable to suppose this is his CliffsNotes version of Mr. Barr’s ideology.

Both of these views are accurate enough. But at least since Mr. Barr’s infamous speech at the University of Notre Dame Law School, in which he blamed “secularists” for “moral chaos” and “immense suffering, wreckage and misery,” it has become clear that no understanding of William Barr can be complete without taking into account his views on the role of religion in society. For that, it is illuminating to review how Mr. Barr has directed his Justice Department on matters concerning the First Amendment clause forbidding the establishment of a state religion.

In these and other cases, Mr. Barr has embraced wholesale the “religious liberty” rhetoric of today’s Christian nationalist movement. When religious nationalists invoke “religious freedom,” it is typically code for religious privilege. The freedom they have in mind is the freedom of people of certain conservative and authoritarian varieties of religion to discriminate against those of whom they disapprove or over whom they wish to exert power.

America’s conservative movement, having morphed into a religious nationalist movement, is on a collision course with the American constitutional system. Though conservatives have long claimed to be the true champions of the Constitution — remember all that chatter during previous Republican administrations about “originalism” and “judicial restraint” — the movement that now controls the Republican Party is committed to a suite of ideas that are fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution and the Republic that the founders created under its auspices.

More World News

strategic culture logoStrategic Culture Foundation, Commentary: Will Bougainville Become the UN’s 194th Member State? Wayne Madsen, Dec. 30, 2019. There was a time when it was not unusual for the United Nations to accept several new members in a single decade. These days such accessions to membership are rare.

During the last two decades, the UN has admitted only four new members. However, that does not mean that there is a paucity of aspirant nations seeking to join the world body as full members of the international community of nations.

Were it not for the intransigence of Euro-Pacific powers that insist on continued colonial domination of the island territories of the Pacific – namely, Australia, New Zealand, France, and the United States – the UN would have attained a number of new member states from the South Pacific region.

If various nations abide by their past promises, the island of Bougainville, which recently held a referendum that saw an overwhelming 98.31 percent of voters opt for independence, should become, at some point during the next few years, the 194th member of the UN. Ever since 2001, the people of Bougainville, who fought a deadly civil war against Papua New Guinea – the governing neo-colonial power – have been promised by various foreign leaders that the results of the referendum would be respected. So far, the various parties with an interest in the region, have shown signs of reneging on the promise of independence for the 300,000 people of Bougainville.

#Me Too Claim

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman Who Accused 12 Men of Rape Is Guilty of ‘Public Mischief’ in Cyprus, Lizzy Ioannidou and Iliana Magra, Dec. 30, 2019. The British woman said that a dozen Israeli men had raped her in a resort town, and then retracted her statement. She could face up to a year in prison.

A British woman was convicted by a Cyprus court on Monday for lying to the authorities when she accused a dozen Israeli men of raping her and later retracted her statement, the latest twist in a case that divided public opinion in Cyprus and Israel.

The British woman, who was 19 when she made the accusation and has not been publicly identified, had accused the men, who ranged in age from 15 to 18, of raping her in a hotel room in the resort town of Ayia Napa in July. The men were arrested that month but were later released after the police said the woman had retracted the accusations.

Marios Christou, the chief investigating officer in the case, testified during the legal proceedings that she had “admitted that she reported the incident” because the men “were recording her having sex” and “she felt insulted.” He also pointed to inconsistencies between her statement and video footage from the night on which she said she was raped.

Dec. 29

World NewsMohammad Reza Pahlavi, self-styled

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the arrogant and cruel self-styled "King of Kings" in Iran, at right with his wife, "Empress" Farah Diba, in a 1979 airport photo shortly before they fled Iran.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Chase Bank Chairman Helped the Deposed Shah of Iran Enter the U.S., David D. Kirkpatrick, Dec. 29, 2019. The fateful decision in 1979 to admit Mohammed Reza Pahlavi prompted the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran and helped doom the iran flag mapCarter presidency.

david rockefeller memoirs“The Eagle has landed,” Joseph V. Reed Jr., the chief of staff to the bank’s chairman, David Rockefeller (shown on the cover of his memoirs), declared in a celebratory meeting at the bank the next morning.

Less than two weeks later, on Nov. 4, 1979, vowing revenge for the admission of the shah to the United States, revolutionary Iranian students seized the American Embassy in Tehran and then held more than 50 Americans — and Washington — hostage for 444 days.

The shah, Washington’s closest ally in the Persian Gulf, had fled Tehran in January 1979 in the face of a burgeoning uprising against his 38 years of iron-fisted rule. Liberals, leftists and religious conservatives were rallying against him. Strikes and demonstrations had shut down Tehran, and his security forces.

 
washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. strikes in Iraq and Syria target Iran-backed militia, Pentagon says, Dan Lamothe​, Dec. 29, 2019. The action comes .two days after an American contractor was killed in an attack on a base.

Centcom logoThe U.S. military has launched a series of strikes on five facilities in Iraq and Syria belonging to a militia considered to be backed by Iran, the Pentagon said Sunday, two days after an American contractor was killed in an attack on an Iraqi base.

The strikes came after repeated attacks on Iraqi bases by Kitaeb Hezbollah, Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. The American operations will “degrade KH’s ability to conduct future attacks” against coalition forces, he said.

The actions underscore the continued unpredictability of U.S. involvement in Iraq and Syria, and raise the possibility of an escalation with the militia. The Pentagon says the group has links to Iran’s Quds Force, a special operations unit that U.S. officials say provides weapons and other support to proxy forces that help Iran extend its reach.

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trump Is Sidelining Scientists and Their Work, Brad Plumer and Coral Davenport, Dec. 29, 2019 (print ed.). The Trump administration has diminished the role of science in policymaking while disrupting research projects nationwide. The effects of this Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)transformation of the federal government could be felt for years as hundreds of scientists depart and programs are curtailed.

In just three years, the Trump administration has diminished the role of science in federal policymaking while halting or disrupting research projects nationwide, marking a transformation of the federal government whose effects, experts say, could reverberate for years.

epa general logoPolitical appointees have shut down government studies, reduced the influence of scientists over regulatory decisions and in some cases pressured researchers not to speak publicly. The administration has particularly challenged scientific findings related to the environment and public health opposed by industries such as oil drilling and coal mining. It has also impeded research around human-caused climate change, which President Trump has dismissed despite a global scientific consensus.

But the erosion of science reaches well beyond the environment and climate: In San Francisco, a study of the effects of chemicals on pregnant women has stalled after federal funding abruptly ended. In Washington, D.C., a scientific committee that provided expertise in defending against invasive insects has been disbanded. In Kansas City, Mo., the hasty relocation of two agricultural agencies that fund crop science and study the economics of farming has led to an exodus of employees and delayed hundreds of millions of dollars in research.

washington post logodemocratic donkey logoWashington Post, Democratic rivals call for spending trillions more amid debate on what’s doable, Toluse Olorunnipa, Dec. 29, 2019. More-moderate Democrats have been the most vocal critics of their liberal colleagues’ spending plans, but even the most sparse of the proposals dwarfs what successful Democrats pushed before.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump started federal workers’ year with a shutdown. He ended it with their biggest raise in a decade, Lisa Rein, Dec. 29, 2019. In 2019, 2.1 million civil servants were whipsawed by a president who disparaged career officials who testified in the Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoimpeachment inquiry, FBI officials who handled the Russia probe — and even weather forecasters.

It ended on a high note, as the president signed off on 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents, a generous raise and a midweek vacation day before Christmas against the recommendation of his own staff — and as he issued an exuberant letter of thanks to “Our Incredible Federal Workforce.”

donald trump jr gage skidmore Custom

Donald Trump Jr. has the audacity to assert that he is a victim of the “leftist” media, which he labels, like his father, “the enemy of the people” (Gage Skidmore Photo).

Buzzflash, Commentary: How the Trumps Weaponize “Grievance Porn,” Mark Karlin, Dec. 29, 2019. Donald Trump Jr.'s Snowflake Meltdown Over Home Alone 2 Cut is Latest Example of Trump Family White Privilege "Grievance" Whimpering. 

The daily testament to how Trump and his family attract the media to the entertainment spectacle that the Trumps create, particularly the patriarch of the family, is unending. It is like a reality TV show that starts over every day with an early morning Twitter storm by the corrupt grifter-in-chief and master media manipulator.

BuzzFlash Informs, Inspires and Exposes, but we can only amplify our powerful voice of resistance with your financial support. This holiday season, please donate now.

We accept no advertising and are only responsible to our readers.

This weekend’s media scrum about how the Trumps took umbrage over a seven-second cut by the CBC of a Trump cameo appearance in the years-old (released in 1992) “Home Alone 2” — although Donald later stated that he was just joking that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was responsible for the “slight” — is testament to how entertainment and “journalism” have merged, along with the Trumps asserting resentment and victimhood at the hands of liberals, and in this case the “leftist “Canadians.

Yes, Donald Trump did have a blink-of-the-eye cameo in Home Alone 2, but according to CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson, it was edited out in 2014, long before Trump became president, to shorten the film to the length of its airing time on the Canadian TV network.

That the edit preceded Trujmp’s political ascendancy didn’t stop Trump Jr. from frothing into a tirade against the CBC, the media as “the enemy of the people,” and liberals as a group “oppressing” the “real” Americans. as explosively written in an Instagram entry by him:

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the Biggest 2020 Advertising War Against Trump, Jeremy W. Peters, Dec. 29, 2019. Michael Bloomberg’s michael bloomberg2presidential campaign wants to flood voters with attacks on President Trump before it is too late, a lesson Republican candidates learned in 2016.

Hillary Clinton tried. So did 16 rival Republicans. And after hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on ads attacking Donald Trump in 2016, the results were the same: They never did much damage.

Now Michael R. Bloomberg, right, is trying — his way — spending millions each week in an online advertising onslaught that is guided by polling and data that he and his advisers believe provide unique insight into the president’s vulnerabilities.

The effort, which is targeting seven battleground states where polls show Mr. Trump is likely to be competitive in November, is just one piece of an advertising campaign that is unrivaled in scope and scale. On Facebook and Google alone, where Mr. Bloomberg is most focused on attacking the president, he has spent $18 million on ads over the last month, according to Acronym, a digital messaging firm that works with Democrats.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s mass-retweet meltdown saga just took an even more jarring turn, Bill Palmer, Dec. 29, 2019. On Friday, Donald Trump posted a series of incredibly reckless retweets of obscure and suspicious Twitter accounts, including one which identified the donald trump twittersupposed name of the whistleblower – which was a felony. By Saturday, several of these retweets had disappeared. This led us and others to ask who within Trump’s team panicked and deleted these retweets.

Now we have the answer: no one. In a surprise turn of events, Twitter is telling CNN’s Brian Stelter that Donald Trump didn’t actually delete any of his retweets. Instead, a technical glitch caused Trump’s retweet, along with retweets from bill palmer report logo header“millions of other accounts,” to temporarily vanish. Now that the glitch has been resolved, Trump’s felonious tweet is once again visible.

This is nothing short of remarkable. For a brief moment there, it 100% appeared that Donald Trump or someone on his team had finally figured out that committing felonies on Twitter was a bad idea. Now it turns out that, predictably, no one in Trump’s orbit has that kind of self awareness. That’s fascinating, considering how many of Trump’s advisers have already been convicted of crimes and sent to prison for helping Trump commit felonies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Richard Jewell Was Wrongly Implicated in a Mass Attack. He’s Not the Only One, Mitch Smith, Dec. 29, 2019. In one Justice Department log circularcase, the authorities charged an innocent man with capital murder. Other, smaller errors are common after mass shootings.

Poinciana, Fla. — Brandon Gonzales did not shoot anyone. But for more than a week this fall, the authorities in Texas were convinced that he was the gunman who killed two people and wounded several others at a homecoming party.

With no chance of posting his $1 million bail, Mr. Gonzales passed his days in an orange jumpsuit poring over the Bible, writing out prayers, trying not to think about how he could face execution if convicted.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden, Reversing Position, Says He Would Comply With Impeachment Subpoena, Thomas Kaplan, Dec. 29, 2019 (print ed).joe biden headshot Mr. Biden, right, asserted that no “legal basis” existed for the Senate to seek his testimony in the impeachment trial, but he later told a crowd that he would comply with “any subpoena that was sent to me.”

Mr. Biden’s 180-degree turn on whether he would comply with a subpoena was one of the starkest and swiftest reversals by a candidate in the Democratic primary campaign, and came after he faced questions and criticism about whether his initial stand would run counter to the rule of law.

More Media News, Trends

robert parry new hs

The late Robert Parry, above: On New Year’s Eve 2017, less than a month before he would die, Consortium News founder Bob Parry wrote a manifesto on the remit of journalism and its threatened demise, a chilling forecast of what was to come.

Consortium News, Opinion: An Apology & Explanation, Two Years On, Robert Parry, Dec. 29, 2019 (Originally published on Dec. 31, 2017). For readers who have come to see Consortium News as a daily news source, I would like to extend my personal apology for our spotty production in recent days.

On Christmas Eve, I suffered a stroke that has affected my eyesight (especially my reading and thus my writing) although apparently not much else. The doctors have also been working to figure out exactly what happened since I have never had high blood pressure, I never smoked, and my recent physical found nothing out of the ordinary. Perhaps my personal slogan that “every day’s a work day” had something to do with this.

Perhaps, too, the unrelenting ugliness that has become Official Washington and national journalism was a factor.

It seems that since I arrived in Washington in 1977 as a correspondent for the Associated Press, the nastiness of American democracy and journalism has gone from bad to worse.

In some ways, the Republicans escalated the vicious propaganda warfare following Watergate, refusing to accept that Richard Nixon was guilty of some extraordinary malfeasance (including the 1968 sabotage of President Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks to gain an edge in the election and then the later political dirty tricks and cover-ups that came to include Watergate).

Rather than accept the reality of Nixon’s guilt, many Republicans simply built up their capability to wage information warfare, including the creation of ideological news organizations to protect the party and its leaders from “another Watergate.”

So, when Democrat Bill Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush in the 1992 election, the Republicans used their news media and their control of the special prosecutor apparatus (through Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle) to unleash a wave of investigations to challenge Clinton’s legitimacy, eventually uncovering his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Though I don’t like the word “weaponized,” it began to apply to how “information” was used in America. The point of Consortium News, which I founded in 1995, was to use the new medium of the modern Internet to allow the old principles of journalism to have a new home, i.e., a place to pursue important facts and giving everyone a fair shake. But we were just a tiny pebble in the ocean.

The trend of using journalism as just another front in no-holds-barred political warfare continued – with Democrats and liberals adapting to the successful techniques pioneered mostly by Republicans and by well-heeled conservatives.

“The idea had developed that the way to defeat your political opponent was not just to make a better argument or rouse popular support but to dredge up some ‘crime’ that could be pinned on him or her.”

More and more I would encounter policymakers, activists and, yes, journalists who cared less about a careful evaluation of the facts and logic and more about achieving a pre-ordained geopolitical result – and this loss of objective standards reached deeply into the most prestigious halls of American media.

Dec. 28

Trump Impeachment

The Atlantic, Commentary: A Gangster in the White House, David Frum, Dec. 28, 2019. The president tweeted the name of the presumed whistle-blower in the Ukraine scandal — demonstrating that he is unrepentant and determined to break the law again.

nancy pelosi impeachmentIn the meantime, though, the country is left once again with the problem of a president who refuses to obey the law.

Trump is organizing from the White House a conspiracy to revenge himself on the person who first alerted the country that Trump was extorting Ukraine to help his reelection: more lawbreaking to punish the revelation of past lawbreaking. Impeaching a president whose party holds a majority in the Senate obviously presents many grave practical difficulties. But Trump’s post-Christmas mania confirms House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s prediction that Trump would impeach himself.

djt nancy pelosi

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes full psycho stalker after Nancy Pelosi gets the best of him, Bill Palmer, Dec. 28, 2019. The more clear it becomes to Donald Trump that it’s all going wrong for him, the more erratic, incoherent, and disturbing his behavior is becoming. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has impeached him for his crimes, and now she’s working on making sure his Senate impeachment trial isn’t a sham. In response, Trump has gone completely overboard in his approach toward her.

donald trump twitterOn Friday night, Trump began retweeting various trash-filled Twitter accounts. One of them bizarrely claimed that “we have a rogue house with the speaker that’s caved and does what she’s told” – without bothering to spell out who’s supposedly controlling Speaker Pelosi. Trump then retweeted a loon who made up the laughable false claim that “Pelosi refuses to release the transcripts from Schiffty Schiffs Secret meetings that exonerate Trump.” But then came the real debacle.

bill palmer report logo headerAt the height of his Twitter meltdown, Donald Trump ended up retweeting a picture of what he claims is Nancy Pelosi’s home. This is something that anyone can probably Google, so it’s not as if he’s giving away a secret. But he knows his support base consists of unstable violent lunatics, one of whom has already mailed bombs to several Democratic politicians. Trump is trying to put Pelosi’s safety in danger, and he knows it.

Nancy Pelosi will be fine. She’s infinitely tougher than Donald Trump is. But this is the latest reminder that because Trump is losing his presidency, he’s also losing what’s left of his mind. The Senate has a deeper responsibility than ever to remove Trump from office, so prosecutors can get down to the business of indicting and arresting him for his crimes.

Investigations / Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, Anguish and Anger From the Navy SEALS Who Turned In Edward Gallagher, Dave Philipps, Dec. 28, 2019 (print  ed.). The men of President Donald Trump officialAlpha Platoon, SEAL Team 7, described Chief Gallagher as “freaking evil” and “toxic” in videos not shown publicly before. The remarks are blistering testimony about their platoon chief, who was protected by President Trump from punishment.

The Navy SEALs showed up one by one, wearing hoodies and T-shirts instead of uniforms, to tell investigators what they had seen. Visibly nervous, they shifted in their chairs, rubbed their palms and pressed their fists against their foreheads. At times they stopped in midsentence and broke into tears.

“Sorry about this,” Special Operator First Class Craig Miller, one of the most experienced SEALs in the group, said as he looked sideways toward a blank wall, trying to hide that he was weeping. “It’s the first time — I’m really broken up about this.”

edward gallagherVideo recordings of the interviews obtained by The New York Times, which have not been shown publicly before, were part of a trove of Navy investigative materials about the prosecution of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, left, on war crimes charges including murder.

They offer the first opportunity outside the courtroom to hear directly from the men of Alpha platoon, SEAL Team 7, whose blistering testimony about their platoon chief was dismissed by President Trump when he upended the military Department of Defense Sealcode of justice to protect Chief Gallagher from the punishment.

“The guy is freaking evil,” Special Operator Miller told investigators. “The guy was toxic,” Special Operator First Class Joshua Vriens, a sniper, said in a separate interview. “You could tell he was perfectly O.K. with killing anybody that was moving,” Special Operator First Class Corey Scott, a medic in the platoon, told the investigators.

Culture Wars

washington post logoWashington Post, Hunting black men to start a ‘race war,’ Michael E. Miller​, Dec. 28, 2019 (print ed.). James Harris Jackson went to New York with a Roman sword and an apocalyptic ideology. Then he stabbed a stranger in the back and left him to die. His motivation? An idea that is older than the United States but has continued to inspire violence.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, As Guatemala pursues war criminals, a dark secret emerges: Some suspects are living quiet lives in the U.S., Kevin Sieff, Dec. 28, 2019. At least three men face deportation and possible trial in Guatemala after working as landscapers or cooks in the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, Thai rescue diver dies from infection contracted while saving soccer team from flooded cave, Katie Mettler, Dec. 28, beirut pakbara thai rescue diver2019. Petty Officer 1st Class Beirut Pakbara is the second diver to die as a result of the risky, harrowing rescue in 2018.

A year and a half after a youth soccer team was rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand during a harrowing and dangerous mission, one of the divers who helped save lives has died of an infection he contracted during the operation.

Petty Officer 1st Class Beirut Pakbara was receiving treatment for the infection, but his condition worsened when it spread to his bloodstream, according to a Facebook post from the Royal Thai Navy. He died this week and was buried Friday at the Talosai mosque in the Langu district of the Satun province, reported the Bangkok Post.

A Royal Thai Navy spokesman told the Bangkok Post that Beirut will be posthumously promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

ny times logochina flag SmallNew York Times, Congress Wants to Press Trump Into Action on Human Rights, Edward Wong and Catie Edmondson, Dec. 28, 2019 (print ed.). In a rare show of bipartisan unity, lawmakers aim to pass veto-proof legislation in 2020 that would punish China over its treatment of ethnic Uighur Muslims. The effort comes amid growing frustration with President Trump’s unwillingness to challenge China over human rights abuses, despite vivid news reports.

U.S. Justice System

ny times logoNew York Times, As More Mothers Fill Prisons, Children Suffer ‘a Primal Wound,’ Dan Levin, Dec. 28, 2019. At least 5 million children have had a parent behind bars. The toll is exacting, from unstable homes to lasting effects on their well-being.

Every month, Lila Edwards wakes up early for a two-hour road trip with a group of girls that ends with them walking single file through a metal detector. Inside an empty classroom, Lila eagerly and anxiously awaits Inmate 01740964.

When the inmate, a woman serving a 40-year sentence for murder, walked in during a recent visit, Lila collapsed into her arms and didn’t let go for more than a minute. These monthly visits at a minimum security prison are the only times that Lila, who is 10 years old and in the fifth grade, touches her mother.

“Sometimes I ask, ‘Mom, when are you going to come home?’” Lila said. “She says soon and tells me to pray more to God about it. I pray for my mom every night.”

As the prison population in the United States skyrocketed since 1980, the number of incarcerated women has grown by more than 750 percent, at a rate twice that of men. The increase, according to criminologists, has been driven by a rise in the imprisonment of white women for property and drug-related crimes. And as the population has risen, so, too, has the number of children growing up with a mother or father behind bars.

washington post logoWashington Post, Drug regulators, lawmakers spar over whether quota could curb opioid epidemic, Sari Horwitz and Scott Higham, Dec. 28, 2019. Congress and other authorities want the nation's supply restricted to limit abuse. But current and former DEA officials say that using a federal quota to attack the epidemic would not work and could harm legitimate pain patients.

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Biden tries to explain why he’d refuse to testify in Senate impeachment trial of Trump, Colby Itkowitz, Dec. 28, 2019. Former vice president Joe Biden, right,joe biden headshot sought Saturday to explain why he would defy a congressional subpoena if called to testify in the Senate trial of President Trump, tweeting that he has always followed the law but that there is no “legal basis” for him to be called as a witness in the impeachment proceedings.

Some congressional Republicans, to shift the focus of the impeachment heat away from Trump, have argued that Biden and his son Hunter must provide testimony about their engagements in Ukraine. Democrats have said this is irrelevant to the question of whether Trump abused his power when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation into the Bidens.

U.S. 2020 Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, These White Voters on the Far Right See Doom Without Trump, Astead W. Herndon, Dec. 28, 2019. At events like “Trumpstock,” the president’s most impassioned supporters extol him as a cultural champion reclaiming the country from undeserving outsiders. As Mr. Trump’s bid for re-election shifts into higher gear, his campaign hopes to recapture voters who drifted away from the party in 2018 and 2019: independents who embraced moderate Democratic candidates, suburban women tired of Mr. Trump’s personal conduct and working-class voters who haven’t benefited from his economic policies.

But if any group remains singularly loyal to Mr. Trump, it is the small but impassioned number of white voters on the far right, often in rural communities like Golden Valley, who extol him as a cultural champion reclaiming the country from undeserving outsiders.

washington post logoWashington Post, A federal judge will not reverse Georgia’s decision to purge 100,000 voters, Hannah Knowles, Dec. 28, 2019. Georgia does not have to reinstate almost 100,000 voters removed from its rolls this month, a federal judge ruled Friday, backing the state over activists who said the purge violates people’s rights.

The decision is a victory for officials who called the removals routine and a blow to voting rights advocates who worry such purges will disenfranchise Democratic-leaning low-income voters, young people and people of color. Georgia’s recent removal of more than 300,000 voters has launched a new fight over registrations in a state where last year’s tight race for governor led to allegations of voter suppression and an investigation in Congress.

stacey abrams 2012 kerry battles via flickrA group founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams, left, who narrowly lost the gubernatorial race, has sought to undo much of the latest purge, which came days after a judge backed cutting as many as 234,000 voters in Wisconsin, another state that will be closely watched in 2020.

Abrams’s group, Fair Fight Action, argues that 98,000 voters who were cut should have stayed on the rolls for longer under a change this year to state law that lengthens the process leading up to a voter’s removal. It also contends that Georgia has violated the Constitution by removing voters over-zealously for inactivity, echoing others around the country concerned by so-called “use it or lose it” policies.

steve jones judgeBut Judge Steve C. Jones, right, of Georgia’s Northern District Court declined to intercede in the purge, ruling that the issue of the 98,000 voters is outside his purview and saying that Fair Fight Action and a host of fellow plaintiffs have not shown they’re likely to prevail on the question of constitutionality.

Jones added, however, that Georgia has to make “additional diligent and reasonable efforts” to make people aware of the court’s decision and the canceled voters’ need to re-register, noting that the fast-approaching Monday deadline to do so for a special election in one state House district. And Jones expressed “serious concern” that it’s not clear how this year’s change in state law applies to the 98,000 contested voter registrations, saying the plaintiffs can seek “emergency relief” from a state court better fit to weigh in.

U.S. Environment

Associated Press, Jim Beam fined in massive bourbon spill that killed fish, Staff report, Dec. 28, 2019. Jim Beam was fined $600,000 earlier this month after a July warehouse fire sent a nearly 23-mile (37-kilometer) plume of alcohol into the Kentucky and Ohio rivers, killing fish.

The distiller agreed to the fine in a Dec. 6 order from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, The Courier-Journal reports. Jim Beam will also reimburse the state agency $112,000 (100,000 Euros).

The July 3 fire was started when lightning struck a massive barrel warehouse near the Woodford-Franklin County line. The blaze sent flames shooting into the night sky that could be seen for miles and generated so much heat that firetruck lights melted. About 40,000 barrels of aging whiskey were destroyed, with the runoff pouring into nearby Glenns Creek and then downstream into the rivers.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources found dead fish along 62 miles (100 kilometers) of Glenns Creek and the Kentucky River. There were also dead fish in the Ohio River, but Energy and Environment Cabinet spokesman John Mura has described the impact there as “negligible.”

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump retweets — then deletes — a post naming the alleged whistleblower whose complaint led to impeachment, Colby Itkowitz​, Dec. 28, 2019. The whistleblower’s identity has been kept secret because of laws that exist to shield those who allege wrongdoing by the government. Advocates say this anonymity protects those who speak up from retaliation and encourages others to come forward.

President Trump retweeted and then deleted a post naming the alleged whistleblower who filed the complaint that became the catalyst for the congressional inquiry that resulted in his impeachment by the House of Representatives.

On Friday night, Trump shared a Twitter post from @surfermom77, who describes herself as “100% Trump supporter,” with his 68 million followers. That tweet prominently named the alleged whistleblower and suggested that he had committed perjury.

By Saturday morning, Trump’s retweet had been deleted.

For months, Trump has threatened to disclose the identity of the whistleblower, complaining that he should be able to face his accuser. In the past few days, he has inched closer to doing so. On Thursday night, the president retweeted a link to a Washington Examiner story that used the name.

The alleged whistleblower has also been named in other conservative media, including Breitbart News. He was named by a contributor on Fox News, and Donald Trump Jr. has tweeted the name.

The whistleblower’s identity has been kept secret because of whistleblower protection laws, which exist to shield those who come forward with allegations of wrongdoing by the government. Whistleblower advocates say this anonymity is important, because it protects those who speak up from retaliation and encourages others to come forward.

#MeToo Charges

ny times logoNew York Times, Ruling Against Film Director Could Pave Way for More #MeToo Claims, Nancy Coleman, Dec. 28, 2019 (print ed.). In a significant ruling that could make it easier to file sexual assault lawsuits in New York City, an appeals court ruled this week that a city law prohibiting “animus based on the victim’s gender” can apply to any accusation of forced sex.

A four-judge panel of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Manhattan ruled unanimously on Thursday that plaintiffs can use the law to pursue sexual assault claims even if there is no other evidence that the defendant has shown hatred of the victim’s gender.

The city law comes with a seven-year statute of limitations; without the law, accusers would have to file suit within one to five years of the alleged assault, depending on its severity. In addition to the extra time, the law also allows greater financial penalties and recovery of legal fees for victorious plaintiffs, potentially removing a barrier for accusers who do not have money to hire a lawyer.

Lawyers involved in the case said the ruling could be a watershed in New York City in the #MeToo era.

Dec. 27

Investigations / Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Ousted cardinal McCarrick gave more than $600,000 to powerful clerics, including 2 popes, Shawn Boburg, Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Chico Harlan, Dec. 27, 2019 (print ed.). Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in church money to powerful Catholic clerics over nearly two decades, according to financial records obtained by The Washington Post, while the Vatican failed to act on claims he had sexually harassed young men.

theodore mccarrickStarting in 2001, McCarrick, left, sent checks totaling more than $600,000 to clerics in Rome and elsewhere, including Vatican bureaucrats, papal advisers and two popes, according to church ledgers and former church officials.

Several of the more than 100 recipients were directly involved in assessing misconduct claims against McCarrick, documents and interviews show. It was not until 2018 that McCarrick was removed from public ministry amid allegations of misconduct decades earlier with a 16-year-old altar boy, and this year he became the first cardinal known to be defrocked for sexual abuse.

McCarrick, 89, became one of the most recognizable church figures in America during a career spanning a half-century. He traveled the world for the Vatican and became the U.S. Catholic Church’s de facto spokesman nearly two decades ago as it reeled from a sex-abuse crisis that began in Boston. In Washington, he presided over funerals of the city’s political elite, including Edward M. Kennedy, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, and hosted dinners for President George W. Bush and other dignitaries.

  • Washington Post, Interfaith leader reaches settlement in United Methodist Church sexual harassment case, Julie Zauzmer, Dec. 27, 2019 (print ed.). The Rev. Bud Heckman was facing a church trial, the first prominent #MeToo case for the nation’s third-largest religious denomination.

Inside DC

SCOTUSblog, Decade in review: Citizens United and campaign spending, Edith Roberts, Dec. 27, 2019. One of the first blockbuster Supreme Court decisions of the past 10 years will surely affect the election taking place at the beginning of the new decade. In January 2010, the court ruled 5-4 in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations and unions have a First Amendment right to engage in independent spending to influence elections, overturning precedent to strike down part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

anthony kennedy scotus 236x3001Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy, right, discounted concerns that campaign spending would lead to corruption. “The fact that speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that these officials are corrupt,” he explained, and “[t]he appearance of influence or access … will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.” In a 90-page dissent read from the bench, Justice John Paul Stevens countered that “[a] democracy cannot samuel alitofunction effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.”

The decision sparked what was then a rare public breach of separation-of-powers etiquette: During his 2010 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama asserted that it would “open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” and Justice Samuel Alito, left, responded by mouthing “Not true” from the audience.

Citizens United, together with an appeals court decision issued in its wake, led to the rise of so-called “super PACs,” political action committees that can raise unlimited funds from individuals, corporations, unions and other groups and can engage in unlimited spending on political campaigns as long as they do not coordinate directly with the candidates. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, super PACs spent $820,000,000 in the 2018 election cycle.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why millions of Americans, including men, will get a separate bill for abortion coverage starting in June, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Dec. 27, 2019 (print ed.). The rule change has been praised by antiabortion groups and criticized by insurers, medical organizations and women's health advocates.

If you are one of the 3 million Americans who bought health insurance on an Affordable Care Act state exchange, you may be surprised to open up the mail this summer and find two separate monthly bills.

Under a new rule finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services in December, insurers are now required to issue a separate invoice for the amount of your premium that they attribute to abortion services. So you’ll get one bill for abortion services and another for the rest of your insurance coverage.

The Intellectualist, Report: Trump To Release Executive Order Criminalizing Homelessness, Jake Thomas, Dec. 27, 2019. The Trump administration looks to move away from Housing First and toward a more punitive approach to the homeless. President Donald Trump is looking to make a move on addressing America’s homelessness crisis, shirking the advice of advocates in favor of a focus on increasing law enforcement involvement in the issue, according to City Lab.

An executive order could be coming down the pike soon, advocates believe, that would “assign new resources to police departments to remove homeless encampments and even strip housing funds from cities that choose to tolerate these encampments.”

The White House’s Domestic Policy Council is working closely with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on the issue, with Housing Secretary Ben Carson meeting with officials in Houston earlier this month as part of a push for federal action.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bill Barr is spiraling out of control, Shirley Kennedy, Dec. 27, 2019. William Barr has done little to hide the fact that he william barr new owas appointed not to serve this country, but as “president” Donald Trump’s new personal fixer. He has certainly done very little in his alleged role as attorney general. Attorney Nick Akerman, assistant special prosecutor in the Watergate scandal, sat down with Newsweek to discuss William Barr’s involvement in impeachment and his lack of doing his job.

bill palmer report logo headerBarr, right, has made no secret of his loyalty to Trump instead of the Constitution. One can only assume he is being compensated handsomely for his betrayal, and not only in taxpayer dollars. Akerman calls Barr’s situation “strange” and states that Barr “has so many conflicts and is up to his eyeballs in all of the corruption surrounding Trump.”

Akerman is joined in his opinion by Michael J. Stern, a former federal prosecutor, who believes that Barr’s undying loyalty to Trump is “a perversion” of the attorney general’s job. Stern further told Newsweek that “it is unfortunate that Bill Barr never misses an opportunity to place his thumb on the scales of justice in favor of Donald 
Trump.” It is obviously not just “never Trumpers” who call out Barr. Both Stern and Akerman are former federal prosecutors, and as such, both have myriad experience in criminal law and know criminals when they see them.

Culture Wars

washington post logoWashington Post, One of the nation’s biggest school systems will let students take time off to protest. The conservative backlash has already begun, Hannah Natanson, Dec. 27, 2019 (print ed.). Starting Jan. 27, Fairfax County schools, in Northern Virginia, will permit students in seventh through 12th grades one excused absence each school year for loosely defined “civic engagement activities,” such as marches, sit-ins and lobbying trips to the state capital.

U.S. Politics chuck todd nbc cropped

New York University's PressThink, Criticism: The Christmas Eve Confessions of Chuck Todd, Jay Rosen, right, director of the NYU's Arthur L. jay rosenCarter Journalism Institute, Dec. 26, 2019. That disinformation was going to overtake Republican politics was discoverable years before he says he discovered it.

‘Round midnight on Christmas eve, Rolling Stone posted a short interview with Chuck Todd, above, host of “the longest running show on television,” NBC’s Meet the Press. Its contents were explosive, embarrassing, enraging, and just plain weird.

Three years after Kellyanne Conway introduced the doctrine of “alternative facts” on his own program, a light went on for Chuck Todd. Republican strategy, he now realized, was to make stuff up, spread it on social media, repeat it in your answers to journalists — even when you know it’s a lie with crumbs of truth mixed in — and then convert whatever controversy arises into go-get-em points with the base, while pocketing for the party a juicy dividend: additional mistrust of the news media to help insulate President Trump among loyalists when his increasingly brazen actions are reported as news.

Todd repeatedly called himself naive for not recognizing the pattern, itself an astounding statement that cast doubt on his fitness for office as host of Meet the Press. While the theme of the interview was waking up to the truth of Republican actions in the information warfare space, Todd went to sleep on the implications of what he revealed. It took him three years to understand a fact about American politics that was there on the surface, unconcealed since the day after inauguration. Many, many interpreters had described it for him during those lost years when he could not bring himself to believe it. (I am one.)

You cannot call that an oversight. It’s a strategic blindness that he superintended. By “strategic blindness” I mean what people mean when they quote Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

nbc news logoThe ostensible purpose of the Rolling Stone interview was to promote a special edition of Meet the Press on December 29 that will focus on the weaponization of disinformation. But its effect is to bring MTP — and by extension similar shows — into epistemological crisis.

With Todd’s confessions the mask has come off. It could have come off a long time ago, but the anchors, producers, guests, advertisers and to an unknown degree the remaining viewers colluded in an act of make believe that lurched along until now. One way to say it: They agreed to pretend that Conway’s threatening phrase, “alternative facts” was just hyberbole, the kind of inflammatory moment that makes for viral clips and partisan bickering. More silly than it was ominous.

In reality she had made a grave announcement. The nature of the Trump government would be propagandistic. And as Garry Kasparov observes for us, “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” This exhaustion, this annihilation were on their way to the Sunday shows, and to all interactions with journalists. That is what Kellyanne Conway was saying that day on Meet the Press. But the people who run the show chose not to believe it.

That’s malpractice. Chuck Todd called it naiveté in order to minimize the error. This we cannot allow. Now let’s look more closely at his Christmas Eve confessions….

washington post logoDonald Trump and Mike Pence logoWashington Post, Opinion: The 10 best things Trump has done in 2019, Marc A. Thiessen, Dec. 27, 2019 (print ed.). In his third year in office, President Trump continued to deliver an extraordinary list of accomplishments.

Today, I offer my annual list of the 10 best things Trump did this year (my next column will list the 10 worst).

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Straight Off A Cliff, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 27, 2019. If you were someone who had been committing serious crimes for bill palmeryears and years, and you were finally being cornered, what would you focus your remaining time and energy on before you were arrested? You’d probably hire a good lawyer, spend most of your time working on your legal defense strategy, and make a point of not saying anything that can be used against you at trial.

If you’re Rudy Giuliani, you spent your little remaining time doing drunken interviews where you walk into walls and drool all over yourself while confessing to crimes. Then you tweet a photo of a terrible-looking Baby Jesus scene, complete with a ceramic golden retriever, while trying to make the argument that you and Jesus have both faced the same media blackout.

If you’re Donald Trump, you hire Rudy bill palmer report logo headerGiuliani as your lawyer.

These two guys have no earthly idea what it is that they’re supposed to be doing right now in the hope of saving themselves. Rudy should be staying as far away from the media as possible ahead of his arrest. Trump should be staying as far away from Rudy as possible, as he absolutely has to find a way to win in 2020 in order to avoid being arrested himself, and Rudy is the one who got him impeached to begin with.

Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani are in the process of destroying themselves. In the end, they’ll each land in solitary confinement for the rest of their lives. The tricky part is that America has to protect itself from the damage that these two idiots are doing on their way down. But the upside is that if America works hard and makes sure Trump loses in 2020, he’s guaranteed to go to prison forever.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Netanyahu Rebuffs a Challenge From Within, Despite Graft Charges, Isabel Kershner, Dec. 27, 2019 (print ed.). The embattled Israeli prime minister staved off a Likud party leadership challenge, a victory that is likely to perpetuate Israel’s political benjamin netanyahu frowndeadlock. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, of Israel easily brushed off a challenge for the leadership of the conservative Likud party early Friday, a crucial victory for Israel’s longest-serving leader but one that may only harden the country’s yearlong political standoff.

For Mr. Netanyahu, the landslide in a party primary on Thursday reaffirmed his political prowess and staying power despite his indictment last month on corruption charges, and it gives a jolt of fresh energy to his campaign for Israel’s next general election in March.

But it also assures that one of Israel’s most polarizing issues will be on the ballot in that election: Mr. Netanyahu himself.

ny times logoNew York Times, With U.S. Help No Longer Assured, Saudis Try a New Strategy: Diplomacy, Declan Walsh and Ben Hubbard, Dec. 27, 2019 (print ed.). Worried that they can no longer count on American defense, the Saudis have begun talking to their enemies to cool conflicts in the region.

Mohammed Bin Salman Al-SaudIn the months since a missile and drone attack widely seen as the work of Iran left two Saudi oil facilities smoldering, the Saudi crown prince has taken an uncharacteristic turn to diplomacy to cool tensions with his regional enemies.

The prince, Mohammed bin Salman, right, has stepped up direct talks with the rebels he has been fighting in Yemen for over four years, leading to a decline in attacks by both sides.

Media News / Trends

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Media Is Broken, And not for the reasons you think, David Brooks, Dec. 27, 2019 (print ed.). Those of us in journalism primarily do one thing: cover events. We report and opine about events like election campaigns, wars and crimes. A lot of the events we cover are decisions — a decision to reform health care or write a tweet — so we tend to congregate in the cities where decision makers live. The internet has sped up the news cycle. Now we put more emphasis on covering the last event that just happened. But it’s still mostly events.

But a funny thing has happened to events in this era. They have ceased to drive politics the way they used to. We’ve seen gigantic events like impeachment, the Kavanaugh hearings, the Mueller investigation and the “Access Hollywood” tapes. They come and go and barely leave a trace on the polls, the political landscape or evaluations of Donald Trump.

Events don’t seem to be driving politics. Increasingly, sociology is. We in the media will continue to cover events, which, of course, is absolutely necessary. But with some noble exceptions (I’m thinking of Thomas Edsall of The Times and Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic), we underreport on how meaning is made in different subcultures.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ghost papers and news deserts: Will America ever get its local news back? Jonathan O'Connell, Dec. 27, 2019 (print ed.). Since the Internet arrived in earnest 25 years ago, almost nobody — not the savviest investment bankers, the most well-meaning editors, local entrepreneurs or generous philanthropists — has figured out a sustainable way to continue producing local news.

America lost a quarter of its journalists from 2008 to 2018, the vast majority of them covering local issues, according to University of North Carolina professor Penny Muse Abernathy. Newsrooms lost at least 3,800 jobs in 2019 alone.

She estimates the country has lost 2,100 newspapers since 2004, 70 of them dailies. She has begun referring to about 1,000 surviving titles as “ghost papers” because of their painfully thin staffs and reporting. She has dubbed places with few or no reporters as “news deserts.” “There is a dearth of local news at all levels,” she said.

The top newspaper chains are fighting for their lives, attempting to produce enough news that readers will subscribe online but at a low-enough cost to keep investors — including a vulture hedge fund that continues to ravage newspaper companies — at bay.

Although people still trust local media sources more than national ones, only 14 percent of the public is paying for local news, according to the Pew Research Center. If that number doesn’t rise, many newspapers and digital publishers will be unable to maintain the reporting they are doing now.

Meanwhile, some advocates for local news — armed with new research — are working with community leaders, policymakers and philanthropists to create new ownership models.

U.S. Stocks

ny times logoNew York Times, Stocks Are on the Verge of the Best Year Since 1997, Emily Flitter, Dec. 27, 2019. Three Federal Reserve rate cuts and a rally in huge tech stocks like Apple have helped lift the S&P 500 by 29 percent so far in 2019.

Epstein Scandal

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Credit Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005 (Joe Schildhorn / Patrick McMullan, via Getty Images)

Reuters, Exclusive: FBI investigating British socialite and others who 'facilitated’ Epstein - sources, Dec. 27, 2019. The FBI is investigating British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell and several other people linked to U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, according to two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation.

FBI logoThe FBI also is following up on many leads received from women who contacted a hotline the agency set up at its New York field office in the wake of Epstein’s arrest in July, the sources said.

One of the sources said the probe remains at an early stage.

The sources declined to give further details or identify the people they are looking at apart from Maxwell. However, they said the FBI has no current plans to interview Britain’s Prince Andrew, a friend of Epstein’s who stepped down from his public duties in November because of what he called his “ill-judged” association with the well-connected money manager.

Dec. 26

Impeachment Litigation

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Trump Watch (Details)

washington post logoWashington Post, How Ukraine put Trump and Biden on a collision course, Matt Viser, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker​, Dec. 26, 2019.  President Trump’s now-infamous July 25 phone call brought into fresh relief the lengths he would go to target Joe Biden, and it forced Biden to discuss a topic he wants to avoid. But the decisions to go after each other came long before.

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washington post logoWashington Post, In court, he speaks for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Ann E. Marimow, Dec. 26, 2019 (print ed.). Douglas Letter, a 40-year Justice Department lawyer (shown in a file photo), is at the center of pitched legal battles with the Trump administration.

Two of his cases were being heard on the same floor of the same Washington courthouse on the same afternoon. In one room, Letter tried to persuade a judge to force President Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn to testify before Congress. During a short break, Letter hustled down the hallway to a second courtroom. There, his colleague insisted that former national security adviser John Bolton’s deputy must comply with a House subpoena to testify in the impeachment inquiry.

nancy pelosi djtThat fall day has come to represent a typical schedule for Letter, the genial, self-deprecating lead lawyer for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). After a 40-year career at the Justice Department, defending policies of presidential administrations from both parties, Letter now speaks for the speaker in courtrooms throughout the country while advising House leaders on impeachment.

With his small team of lawyers, Letter is locked in pitched battles with the Trump administration, which has vowed to fight all congressional subpoenas for documents and testimony — and resisted cooperating with House impeachment proceedings. As general counsel to the House, Letter has a hand in an outsize number of fast-moving legal fights between U.S. House logoCongress and the president.

Letter is slated to represent the House at the Supreme Court, which will review two rare separation-of-powers cases over disclosure of Trump’s tax and financial records in March.

And in back-to-back hearings Jan. 3at the federal appeals court in Washington, Letter will explain why the judges should give the House access to secret evidence from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation. His colleague, Megan Barbero, will then ask the court to uphold a ruling forcing McGahn to appear before a House committee despite White House efforts to block his testimony.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mitch McConnell suddenly finds himself on thin ice, Robert Harrington, Dec. 26, 2019. The notion that Mitch mitch mcConnell o portraitMcConnell, right, can blithely ignore the need to call witnesses is absurd, and will become clearly more absurd as the moment of Donald Trump’s day of reckoning before the Senate approaches.

In the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson of 1868 (which was an election year impeachment, by the way), 41 witnesses were called. At the 1999 impeachment trial of Bill Clinton (where he was impeached on the 19th of December, just before Christmas, by the way), 3 witnesses were called, including Monica Lewinsky. To call zero witnesses will be quite a departure from a Republican set of talking points which includes loud, excoriating, hostile language at the smallest departure from impeachment precedent. A group that demanded strict adherence to established precedence bill palmer report logo headerand bellicose criticism of the process is going to have a hard time explaining why no witnesses have been called. It just might make their previous complaints appear partisan.

We have learned since the impeachment hearings that 90 minutes after Trump’s infamous but “perfect” phone call with Ukrainian president Voldomyr Zelensky, that a Trump appointed OMB official ordered the aid to Ukraine withheld and then said, effectively, to keep it quiet, and to only inform select officials at the Pentagon. The only rational explanation for this is the entity he intended to keep it quiet from was Congress. The Impoundment Control Act of 1974 expressly requires Congress be told about such actions – and they were not. In the final analysis, the executive branch was deliberately interfering with an edict from the legislative, and in order to find out why that witness needs to be called.

Failing to do so doesn’t mean another victory scored for yet another corrupt purpose, compliments of the McConnell Senate. Such a move will, beyond a doubt, come back later to bite them. If Trump is allowed to escape conviction he will continue to try to rig the 2020 election in his favor.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I testified against Trump’s impeachment. But let’s not pretend it didn’t happen, Jonathan Turley (right, professor of jonathan turleypublic interest law at George Washington University), Dec. 26, 2019. Constitutional reality doesn’t rest on the House sending the articles over to the Senate.

Our Constitution contains several specific provisions addressing impeachment, but the two most critical (found in Article I, Sections 2 and 3) state that the House “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” and that the Senate “shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.” Those powers are meant to work in tandem, but the House’s “sole Power” to impeach isn’t dependent on the Senate’s “sole Power to try.” These are two distinct acts contained in two distinct powers left to two distinct houses of Congress.

U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Cybercom contemplates information warfare to counter Russian election interference, Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 26, 2019 (print ed.). Military cyber officials are said to be developing tactics that could be deployed against senior Russian officials and Department of Defense Sealoligarchs if Moscow tries to hack election systems or sow discord in 2020.

One option being explored by U.S. Cyber Command would target senior leadership and Russian elites, though probably not President Vladimir Putin, which would be considered too provocative, said the current and former officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

The idea would be to show that the target’s sensitive personal data could be hit if the interference did not stop, though officials declined to be more specific.

U.S. Public Safety, Health

ny times logoNew York Times, Children of Addicted Parents, Raised by Relatives, Dan Levin / Photographs by Alyssa Schukar, Dec. 26, 2019. Nearly 27,000 children in Ohio were removed from their homes last year, many because of the opioid crisis. More than a quarter were placed in the care of relatives.

washington post logoWashington Post, Number of children swallowing dangerous magnets surges as regulation is blocked, Todd C. Frankel, Dec. 26, 2019 (print ed.). Company officials are leading an effort to prevent injuries through voluntary standards. Critics say that won’t protect kids from powerful magnets that are found in popular desk toys and can shred a child’s intestines.

Trump Policies, Finances

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ny times logoNew York Times, A Barrier to Trump’s Border Wall: Private Landowners in Texas, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Dec. 26, 2019. Construction of President Trump’s wall has been slow going, in part because the Texans who own the land have to be coaxed or coerced to sell. Other challenges facing the wall include an investigation into construction contracts and funding delays.

ny times logoNew York Times, Office towers in New York and San Francisco are offsetting revenue downturns in Mr. Trump’s glitzier hotels, Eric Lipton and Steve Eder, Dec. 26, 2019 (print ed.). With hotel expansion plans thwarted, marquee hotels in New York, Panama and Toronto stripped of the Trump name, and revenues lagging or relatively flat at properties like Doral, rising rent collections at office and commercial properties have provided the Trump Organization a sorely needed boost.

Revenues at office towers on Sixth Avenue in Midtown, on Wall Street in downtown Manhattan and at a third building in San Francisco — cities that are centers of political opposition to the president — have each jumped during Mr. Trump’s tenure in the White House, outperforming the family’s much better recognized assets like Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York, financial filings show.

World News

SouthFront, ISIS Executed 11 Abducted Christians In Nigeria, Staff and wire report, Dec. 26, 2019. ISIS militants executed 11 Christians in isis nigeria screenshot amaq video dec 26 2019Nigeria’s Borno state, according to a video released by the terrorist group’s news agency Amaq (screenshot shown at right). All of them were supposedly civilians captured in previous raids of the terrorist group.

Earlier, the terrorist group reportedly wanted to exchange the abducted persons for its members detained by government forces. However, this proposal was rejected by the government.

ISIS claimed that the execution was a part of the campaign to avenge the death of the terrorist group’s leader, Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, and the group’s spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir. According to Amaq, the recent increase of ISIS attacks in Syria was a part of the same campaign.

Dec. 25

World News

Associated Press​ via ​Washington Post, In Christmas message, Pope Francis draws attention to ‘grave humanitarian crisis’ in Yemen and Syria, Dec. 25, 2019. The traditional Christmas message in St. Peter’s Square has become an occasion for popes to address suffering in the world and press for solutions.

pope francis W croppedPope Francis offered a Christmas message of hope Wednesday against darkness that cloaks conflicts and relationships in large parts of the world from the Middle East to the Americas to Africa.

The pope told tens of thousands of tourists, pilgrims and Romans gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the annual Christmas Day message that “the light of Christ is greater’’ than the darkness “in human hearts” and ‘’in economic, geopolitical and ecological conflicts.’’

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Recalls Ambassador Who Spoke Out on Gay Rights and Corruption, Ruth Maclean, Dec. 25, 2019 (print ed.). The United States recalled its ambassador to Zambia on Monday after he criticized the government for sending a gay couple to prison and accused officials of stealing millions of dollars of public funds.

The ambassador, Daniel L. Foote had, described the treatment of the gay couple as “horrifying” — setting off outrage in Zambia, a conservative Christian country. But analysts said that the main reason for his departure was that he had repeatedly declared that ministry officials had misappropriated millions.

In an unusually combative public statement for a member of the diplomatic corps, Mr. Foote had said that the Zambian government “wants foreign diplomats to be compliant, with open pocketbooks and closed mouths​.”

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Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: The Bastardization of Traditional Progressive and Conservative Parties, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 25, 2019.  The two major political parties, the Conservatives and Labor, are mere shadows of their former selves.

united kingdom flagFresh from a major landslide victory in England, the Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, above left, is now a hard-right party. Traditional Tories like Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill, and Kenneth Clarke, the grand old man of Conservative Party politics, were expelled as members of the Conservative ranks sitting in the House of Commons as a result of their September 2019 vote against Johnson’s government and their pro-European Union positions.

Johnson has transformed the Conservative Party into one that follows him in virtual lockstep.

A similar situation has occurred with the Republican Party in the United States. It has been transformed into a party that worships Donald Trump as a cult leader. Traditional Republicans like former governors John Kasich, William Weld, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Ridge, Christine Todd Whitman, and other former governors, senators, and US House members no longer have a political home in what has become the “Trump Party,” one that eschews the policies of past Republican presidents like Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and George H. W. Bush.

Crime, Courts, Trump

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Merry Christmas, Donald Trump just threw Roger Stone under the bus, Bill Palmer, Dec. 25, 2019. Roger Stone has been convicted of seven felonies. He’s about to be sentenced to prison for a couple years, which he’ll have to serve in solitary confinement due to his status as a public figure. His life is effectively over, unless his oldest friend Donald Trump gives him the Christmas gift of a federal pardon.

bill palmer report logo headerBased on what Donald Trump just said, Roger Stone shouldn’t get his hopes up. Each time one of Trump’s henchmen has been brought to justice, Trump has made a consistent habit of distancing himself from them. Trump seems to think that if he downplays the role that the person played in his campaign or administration, it’ll make Trump look less guilty when the person goes to prison. In other words, Trump has no loyalty to these people at all. Yesterday, Trump inexplicably made a point of throwing Stone under the bus

ny times logolisa murkowski 2 blue dressd oNew York Times, G.O.P. Senator ‘Disturbed’ by McConnell’s ‘Total Coordination’ with White House, Zach Montague, Dec. 25, 2019. Lisa Murkowski revealed the first public qualms with Mitch McConnell’s impeachment strategy, a potentially significant crack in Republican unity.

U.S. Politics / Media

washington post logoWashington Post, How the reporter who found Mitt Romney’s secret Twitter has turned online sleuthing into a beat, Hannah Knowles, Dec. 25, 2019 (print ed.). Ashley Feinberg was pretty sure she’d found Pete Buttigieg’s editor account on Wikipedia — the same way the journalist had been pretty sure she’d found Donald Trump Jr.’s profile on a hunting forum, and the Amazon Wish Lists of the president’s inner circle, and Mitt Romney’s secret Twitter account (‘C’est moi,” the senator said when asked to confirm).

pete buttigieg mayor south bend inWho else but the Democratic presidential contender himself, Feinberg thought, would have made sure Buttigieg, right, showed up under a list of notable Rhodes scholars just one day after he was elected mayor of a midsize city in Indiana?

Who else would have gone on six minutes later to create the rising politician’s own page? Who else would have edited Wikipedia’s offerings on his favored Skagen watch, the friend and musician who played at his wedding, the 2010 race for Indiana State Treasurer?

But when Feinberg reached out to the Buttigieg team after a few days of her trademark Internet sleuthing, the mystery of years-ago activity from an account named “Streeling” only deepened.

Public Health / Safety

ny times logoNew York Times, In Indian Country, a Crisis of Missing Women, Jack Healy / Photographs by Adriana Zehbrauskas, Dec. 25, 2019. The federal government is trying to tackle a crisis of missing Native American women. But no one is addressing the problems that arise when they’re found.

Indigenous activists say that generations of killings and disappearances have been disregarded by law enforcement and lost in bureaucratic gaps concerning which local or federal agencies should investigate.

There is not even a reliable count of how many Native women go missing or are killed each year. Researchers have found that women are often misclassified as Hispanic or Asian or other racial categories on missing-persons forms and that thousands have been left off a federal missing-persons database. From state capitals to tribal councils to the White House, a grass-roots movement led by activists and victims’ families is casting a national spotlight on the disproportionately high rates of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls.

Other stories:

  • fda logoNew York Times, Crisis Looms in Antibiotics as Drug Makers Go Bankrupt, Dec. 25, 2019 (print ed.). As germs grow more resistant to antibiotics, many companies developing new versions of the drugs are hemorrhaging money and going out of business. Experts say the grim financial outlook is threatening to strangle the development of new lifesaving drugs.
  • New York Times, Killer Slime and Dead Birds: The Dirty Secrets of European Farm Subsidies, Dec. 25, 2019 (print ed.). The European Union has green aspirations. Its signature $65 billion policy says otherwise.
  • New York Times, Boeing Can’t Fly Its 737 Max, but It’s Ready to Sell Its Safety, Dec. 25, 2019 (print ed.). The 737 Max is still grounded, but Boeing is coaching airlines on how to reassure wary passengers on its safety to help win back the public’s trust.
  • Washington Post, Colleges are turning students’ phones into surveillance machines, Drew Harwell, Dec. 25, 2019. Dozens of schools now use short-range phone sensors and campuswide WiFi networks to monitor students’ academic performance, analyze their conduct or assess their mental health.

Dec. 24

Evangelicals' Trump Dispute

Impeachment Headlines

 

Trump Watch (Details)

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Palmer Report, Opinion: New court filing points to additional articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 24, 2019. As the House impeachment process was playing out, Palmer Report explained that Nancy Pelosi was holding all the cards. She could send the articles of impeachment to the Senate now, or sit on them. She could send the two articles of impeachment now, and after the Republican Senate marries itself to acquitting Trump, send more articles later.

bill palmer report logo headerThere’s a specific reason we predicted more articles of impeachment might be coming: Pelosi and the House Democrats have been fighting ongoing court battles over Trump’s tax returns, the Mueller grand jury materials, and don mcgahn hearing croppedDon McGahn’s testimony. (Former White House Counsel McGahn is shown at right in a file photo.)

Pelosi didn’t drop these court cases when she was done ratifying the two articles of impeachment. She’s still fighting them for a reason. Now a new court filing is explicitly spelling out that reason.

Lawyers for House Democrats are now arguing in court that they still want McGahn’s testimony because they could end up using it as the basis of additional articles of impeachment, beyond the two that they’ve already ratified. This doesn’t guarantee that more articles will end up happening. But it does spell out that House Democrats are indeed pursuing this additional evidence because they’re looking at the specific possibility of additional articles.

This makes things even more complicated for Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. Trump is pushing McConnell to hold a speedy sham trial and rubber-stamp acquittal. But that will require McConnell to make concessions to Pelosi just to get his hands on the two articles of impeachment. Now McConnell has to consider the scenario in which he acquits Trump now, and then in a few months he gets saddled with even more articles and has to hold another trial. The more McConnell has to guess about what Pelosi might do, the less likely McConnell is to guess correctly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out at Pelosi, Democrats after exchanging holiday greetings with troops, Toluse Olorunnipa and John Wagner, Dec. 24, 2019. The president aired an array of grievances about the impeachment process, claiming that Democrats “had no evidence at all.”

djt impeached nydailynews cover dec.19 2019 CustomPresident Trump lashed out again Tuesday at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats involved in his impeachment after a teleconference in which he exchanged holiday greetings with members of the military stationed around the globe.

“She hates the Republican Party,” Trump said of Pelosi, predicting that she would lose her speakership. “She hates all of the people who voted for me and the Republican Party. … She’s doing a tremendous disservice to the country.”

Speaking to reporters who had just witnessed his teleconference from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump aired an array of grievances about the impeachment process, claiming that Democrats “had no evidence at all” about misconduct in his dealings with Ukraine and that he is “in a very good position” as he faces a trial in the Senate.

His comments come amid a standoff regarding the timing and scope of a Senate trial. Pelosi has declined to send the two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — to the Senate yet as Democrats demand more information about the parameters of a trial.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has requested subpoenas for several witnesses and documents that were not part of the House impeachment inquiry because of stonewalling by the White House.

“Now they come to the Senate and they want everything,” Trump said, repeating claims that he did not receive “due process” in the House proceedings. Trump was invited to participate in the Judiciary Committee hearings that preceded his impeachment but refused to do so. He was impeached for obstruction of Congress after blocking several witnesses from his administration from providing documents and testimony sought by House Democrats.

Trump also again took aim Tuesday at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a key player in gathering evidence, calling him “a sick, corrupt politician.”

Democrats responded to Trump’s attacks by noting how they were out of sync with the holiday spirit.

“It’s Christmas Eve. Get. A. Life,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) tweeted to Trump in response to the president’s claim that Pelosi “knows nothing” about the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada that was recently passed by the House.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Trump Impeachment Trial in Limbo, Schumer Demands Emails and Documents, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Dec. 24, 2019 (print ed.). Senator Chuck Schumer sent a letter to colleagues asking them to subpoena internal emails and other records for President Trump’s impeachment trial.

chuck schumer podiumWith Republicans resisting witness testimony, Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, shifted his focus on Monday from witnesses to documents that he wants subpoenaed for President Trump’s impeachment trial.

In a letter to his Senate colleagues, Mr. Schumer laid out a long list of records that Democrats would like to see, including internal emails and documents from the White House, State Department and the Office of Management and Budget relating to the president’s effort to press Ukraine’s leader to investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals.

The New York Democrat was trying to increase pressure on Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, to negotiate over the president’s trial on charges of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The House voted last week to impeach Mr. Trump in connection with the Ukraine matter.

But Mr. McConnell, who has said he is “taking my cues” from the White House in shaping the trial, is not likely to agree to the demand. He already has rejected Mr. Schumer’s request for testimony from four White House officials — including John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.

“Relevant documentary evidence currently in the possession of the Administration will augment the existing evidentiary record and will allow Senators to reach judgments informed by all of the available facts,” Mr. Schumer wrote. “To oppose the admission of this evidence would be to turn a willfully blind eye to the facts, and would clearly be at odds with the obligation of Senators to ‘do impartial justice’ according to the oath we will all take in the impeachment trial.”

Mr. Schumer’s letter comes on the heels of newly released emails showing that the White House asked officials to keep quiet over the suspension of military aid to Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Is Nancy Pelosi Caught in a Trap or Setting One? Gail Collins and Bret Stephens, Dec. 24, 2019. Even if the outcome of a Senate trial is predictable, the political consequences of impeachment are not.

Evangelicals' Trump Dispute (Details)djt as chosen one

washington post logoWashington Post, Editor exits Christian Post amid plans for pro-Trump editorial slamming Christianity Today, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Dec. 24, 2019 (print ed.)​. Politics editor Napp Nazworth has been critical of President Trump and suggested leaders who supported him have “traded their moral authority.”

The decision by Christianity Today to publish an editorial describing President Trump as “immoral” and calling for his removal drew immediate rebuke from the president himself, who called the outlet “a far left magazine.” The piece drew nearly 3 million unique visitors to the magazine’s website and became the talk of TV news shows over the weekend.

At the same time, the longtime centrist-right evangelical magazine saw a rush of canceled subscriptions — and an even greater wave of new subscribers, magazine President Timothy Dalrymple said. Both he and the author of the editorial, retiring editor in chief Mark Galli, could also face personal and professional consequences, according to interviews with several other conservative Christian leaders and writers who in the past have spoken out critically about Trump.

They described losing book sales, conference attendees, donors, church members and relationships.

Journalist Napp Nazworth, who has worked for the Christian Post website since 2011, said he quit his job Monday because the website was planning to publish a pro-Trump editorial that would slam Christianity Today. Nazworth, who sits on the editorial board as politics editor, said the website has sought to represent both sides and published both pro- and anti-Trump stories.

“I never got the gist they were gung-ho Trumpian types,” Nazworth said. “Everything has escalated with the Christianity Today editorial.”

Nazworth, who has been critical of Trump and suggested leaders who supported him have “traded their moral authority,” said he doesn’t know what he will do next.

“I said, if you post this, you’re saying, you’re now on team Trump,” he said. He said he was told that’s what the news outlet wanted to do.

Since the editorial, many Trump supporters have decried Christianity Today as irrelevant and even “elite.” On Sunday, 200 evangelical leaders and other Trump supporters issued a letter slamming the publication. It was signed by many on the president’s evangelical advisory committee, pastors of Pentecostal and Southern Baptist churches, and Christian musicians such as Brian and Jenn Johnson and Michael Tait. Other evangelical leaders published a letter in support of the magazine on Tuesday.

Dalrymple said Monday that the magazine has lost 2,000 subscriptions but gained 5,000, with the latter coming from a younger, more diverse and more global audience.

Christian Post, Opinion: Christianity Today and the problem with 'Christian Elitism,' John Grano and Richard Land (Senior Managing Editor of The Christian Post and Executive Editor, respectively, Dec. 24, 2019. Christianity Today editor Mark Galli’s “lofty” op-ed last week calling for President Trump’s removal from office touched off a firestorm of criticism and dissent from scores of evangelical leaders, and the backlash and debate have reached “critical mass” since its publication. Meanwhile, secular media immediately seized upon the CT editorial to argue that evangelical support for the president was finally crumbling under the weight of impeachment by the House of Representatives.

After all, when Christianity Today, the “flagship” magazine of evangelicals, founded by Billy Graham himself, turns against the president, then the long hoped for evangelical exodus from Trump must surely have finally commenced.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, as made clear by the Graham family itself. The great evangelist’s son, Franklin, divulged that his father “knew Donald Trump, believed in Donald Trump, and he voted for Donald Trump.” He then went on to say that his father “believed that Donald J. Trump was the man for this hour in history for our nation.”

Additionally, almost 200 evangelical leaders signed a joint letter opposing the CT editorial and asserting that CT itself is a shell of its former self and that CT speaks to, and for, fewer evangelicals with each passing year.

What was the spirit animating CT editor Galli’s “thunderbolt” from on high? The answer is likely found in the self-appointed Mount Olympus from which Mr. Galli made his “moral” pronouncement. After Trump’s election, Mr. Galli bluntly confessed:

“I know hardly anyone, let alone any evangelical Christian who voted for Trump. I describe evangelicals like me as ‘elite’ evangelicals … and this class of evangelicals has discovered that we have family members so different they seem like aliens in our midst. These other evangelicals often haven’t finished college, and if they have jobs (and apparently a lot of them don’t), they are blue-collar jobs or entry-level work. They don’t write books or give speeches; they don’t attend conferences of evangelicals for social justice or evangelicals for immigration reform. They are deeply suspicious of mainstream media. A lot of them voted for Donald Trump.”

These words are chillingly similar to former President Barack Obama’s description of rural voters who “cling to their guns and Bibles,” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s characterization of Trump supporters as “deplorables,” and most recently, Beto O’Rourke’s smug threats against biblically orthodox churches and citizens who own a certain type of rifle. These are the words of elitists who look down upon opponents as inferior human beings who need to be controlled, not debated.

That is the toxic emotional and spiritual stew in which the attitude animating Galli’s editorial festered into life.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Opinion: Bill Barr’s DOJ Tells the Courts and Congress to Get Lost, David R. Lurie, Dec. 24, 2019. By Barr’s twisted logic, a president would have a strong incentive to get impeached by the House to gain, quite literally, a license to break the law without recourse.

Donald Trump’s water carriers, including Mitch McConnell, absurdly contend that the Senate doesn’t need to hear from the president’s closest advisers before voting on his removal, because the House purportedly failed to do all it could to obtain court rulings rebuking Trump for his systematic stonewalling of congressional subpoenas.

william barr new oThe GOP’s argument that Congress should have devoted more effort to litigation is all the weaker because the Department of Justice is contending that the federal courts should not enforce Congress’s impeachment subpoenas regardless of their legal validity. Therefore, if Attorney General William Barr gets his way, Congress’ sole recourse to obtain the testimony of the missing Trump Administration witnesses will be to arrest them itself, and jail them until they talk.

The claim that Congress has not diligently pursued its arguments in the courts is the reddest of herrings. When the impeachment investigation began, Trump’s White House counsel Pat Cipollone declared the inquiry to be constitutionally “illegitimate,” and Trump instructed federal government officials to reject all Congressional demands for information and testimony; every current and former official who testified before the House in the impeachment inquiry did so in defiance of this presidential directive.

While Trump has not advanced remotely cogent arguments for his embargoing of witnesses and evidence, Congress went to court to challenge each legal argument he has made, before and after the impeachment process began, and Congress has won each time.

Two different sets of federal trial and appellate courts upheld congressional demands for Trump’s financial records; and those cases are now before the Supreme Court.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s attacks on wind turbines, low-flow toilets and LED lightbulbs set up key campaign clash with Democrats, Toluse Olorunnipa and Juliet Eilperin​, Dec. 24, 2019 (print ed.). The president is betting that his pitch to a bygone era will sway voters turned off by calls for a Green New Deal.

 ny times logoNew York Times, A Trump Policy ‘Clarification’ Removed Protections for Birds, Lisa Friedman, Dec. 24, 2019. In one of its first environmental acts, the Trump administration absolved businesses from responsibility for "incidental" bird deaths. Avian carnage followed.

  • New York Times, Here’s a list of 95 environmental regulations being rolled back under the Trump administration.

washington post logoelizabeth warren cfpbWashington Post, Warren embraced high-priced events for years — until just before 2020 race, Annie Linskey and Michelle Ye Hee Lee​, Dec. 24, 2019. From her first Senate run in 2011 through her reelection last year, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), right, was extremely successful with her high-dollar fundraising program. Her transformation on the issue has led to clashes with her rivals.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Free college for everyone? School presidents aren’t impressed, Catherine Rampell
  • Washington Post, Opinion: Evangelicals need to follow Christianity’s morals, not Trump’s, Michael Gerson
  • Washington Post, Opinion: A Trump Christmas, with ill will to all, Dana Milbank

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon Eyes Africa Pullback as First Step in Global Troop Shift, Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Charlie Department of Defense SealSavage and Eric Schmitt, Dec. 24, 2019. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is weighing proposals for a major reduction — or even a complete pullout — of American forces from West Africa as the first phase of reviewing global deployments that could reshuffle thousands of troops around the world, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations.

The plans, which are likely to draw criticism, stem from a push to reduce missions battling terrorist groups and refocus priorities on confronting so-called Great Powers like Russia and China.

washington post logoWashington Post, A defeated, fragmented ISIS plots its next chapter, Liz Sly | Photos by Alice Martins, Dec. 24, 2019.  Across many parts of the vast territory it once controlled, the Islamic State is scrambling to reassert its presence, and sleeper cells are waiting for orders to attack. The coming months could determine whether ISIS is fatally crippled or poised for a comeback.

Hundreds and perhaps thousands of Islamic State fighters have made their way over recent months into a stretch of sparsely populated territory spanning the disputed border between the Kurdistan region and the rest of Iraq, according to U.S. and Kurdish officials.

Off limits to Kurdish and Iraqi security forces because of historic disputes over who should control it, this area of twisting river valleys dense with vegetation has attracted the biggest known concentration of Islamic State fighters since they lost control of the last village of their once vast caliphate in eastern Syria in March.

SouthFront, Opinion: Turkey Just Sold Its Proxies In Syria’s Idlib For Russian Restraint In Libya, Staff report, Dec. 24, 2019. On Dec. 23, a Turkish delegation visited Moscow for talks on the situation in Syria and Libya. The visit took place as the Syrian Army was Flag of Turkeyadvancing on positions of militant groups, including Turkish-backed ones, in Syria’s Greater Idlib, and Turkey was increasing its military support to the pro-Turkish Government of National Accord in Libya. 

Turkey did not provide extensive details on results. Formal statements by the sides indicate that they have reached a kind of understanding and declared their commitment to the further cooperation....

Turkish top officials demonstrated a surprising moderation and made almost no harsh or loud statements regarding the Syrian Army operation in Idlib....Therefore, one can assume the format of the new Turkish-Russian Russian Flagdeal on Syria and Libya....The Turkish leadership has apparently decided to sell its junior partners in Idlib in order to achieve its strategic goals.

As to Libya, Ankara and Moscow apparently agreed to “continue contacts on the Libyan agenda, including with regard to a possibility of providing support to a speedy settlement of the crisis in the country.”

Unz Review, Opinion: An End to the World as We Know It? Philip Giraldi, right, Dec. 24, 2019. Congress has recently approved a bill that would give philip giraldito Ukraine $300 million in supplementary military assistance to use against Russia. The money and authorization appear in the House of Representatives version of the national defense authorization act (NDAA) that passed last week.

The bill is a renewal of the controversial Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative that Donald Trump allegedly manipulated to bring about an investigation of Joe Biden’s son Hunter. The new version expands on the former assistance package to include coastal defense cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles as offensive weapons that are acceptable for export to Kiev. It also authorizes an additional $50 million in military assistance on top of the $250 million congress had granted in last year’s bill, “of which $100 million would be available only for lethal assistance.”

Ukraine sought the money and arms to counter Russian naval dominance in the Black Sea through its base at Sevastopol in the Crimea. One year ago the Russian navy captured three Ukrainian warships and Kiev was unable to push back against Moscow because it lacked weapons designed to attack ships. Now it will have them and presumably it will use them. How Russia will react is unknowable.

The NDAA also provides seed money to initiate the so-called Space Force, which President Trump inaugurated by describing it as “the world’s newest war-fighting domain. Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital. We’re leading, but we’re not leading by enough, but very shortly we’ll be leading by a lot. The Space Force will help us deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground.”

If that isn’t bad enough, the new defense budget ominously also requires the Trump administration to impose sanctions “with respect to provision of certain vessels for the construction of certain Russian energy export pipelines.” Last week the House of Representatives and Senate approved specific sanctions relating to the companies and governments that are collaborating on the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will cross the Baltic Sea from Vyborg to Greifswald to connect Germany with Russian natural gas. President Trump has signed off on the legislation.

The United States has opposed the project ever since it was first mooted, claiming that it will make Europe “hostage” to Russian energy, will enrich the Russian government, and will also empower Russian President Vladimir Putin to be more aggressive. Engineering companies that will be providing services such as pipe-laying will be targeted by Washington as the Trump administration tries to halt the completion of the $10.5 billion project.

Bear in mind that Nord Stream 2 is a peaceful commercial project between two countries that have friendly relations, making the threats implicit in the U.S. reaction more than somewhat inappropriate. Increased U.S. sanctions against Russia itself are also believed to be a possibility and there has even been some suggestion that the German government and its energy ministry might be sanctioned. This has predictably resulted in pushback from Germany, normally a country that is inclined to go along with any and all American initiatives. Last week German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas asked Congress not to meddle in European energy policy, saying “We think this is unacceptable, because it is ultimately a move to influence autonomous decisions that are made in Europe. European energy policy is decided in Europe, not in the U.S.”

The point is that Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence and Mike Esper (admittedly too many Mikes) wouldn’t know a national interest if it hit them in the face. Their politicization of policy to “win in 2020” promoting apocalyptic nonsense like war in space has also reinforced an existing tunnel vision on what Russia under Vladimir Putin is all about that is extremely dangerous.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Castaway from the Islamic State, Louisa Loveluck, Souad Mekhennet, Loveday Morris, Alice Martins, Dec. 24, 2019 (print ed.). This is part of a series about the perilous aftermath of the Islamic State, which fell in March, and the militant group’s prospects for revival. Bint Fatma left the Netherlands when she was 16 to join the Islamic State in Syria. Now that the caliphate has fallen, and with two young children in tow, she wants to go back to her home country. She is one of tens of thousands who flocked to the caliphate, but their home countries are bitterly conflicted about whether to take them back.

Heavily pregnant and a continent from home, 21-year-old Bint Fatma could find no doctors in her corner of the internment camp.

She waited hours in the October sun, fearing she was about to lose her baby, before guards agreed to take her to a clinic. There were no doctors there either, she said, and so it was decided: She would go back to her tent and await whatever God intended.

Outside, the nights were getting cold, she recounted earlier this month; sickness was spreading like wildfire. Beyond the chain-link fences, a war was brewing.

Bint Fatma’s journey from the Netherlands to this camp in the desert had taken her through the Islamic State’s rise and fall and into the heart of a global debate. Governments worldwide have been wrestling with the question of whether thousands of women like Bint Fatma are conspirators or victims — and whether bringing them home is a moral imperative or a security risk. At stake, too, is the future of thousands of children born into the Islamic State’s “caliphate” through no fault of their own.

Women contributed to the Islamic State’s propaganda and often became complicit in its crimes. Bint Fatma was among some 20,000 women who would stick it out to the end, when the last redoubt of the caliphate was overrun by U.S.-backed forces early this year and its final denizens were trucked to these tents in a dust bowl.

The Washington Post first met the young woman in late July near the entrance to the sprawling al-Hol camp in northeast Syria, home to about 70,000 women and children.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: India’s foreign minister refused to meet me. I won’t stop speaking out on human rights, Pramila Jayapal
  • Washington Post, Opinion: The Khashoggi verdict is exactly what impunity looks like. It must be denounced, Agnes Callamard

U.S. Crime, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, $10,000 in a Coffee Cup: 8 Swept Up in N.J. Political Corruption Cases, Michael Gold, Dec. 24, 2019. The separate accusations, taken together, offered a striking picture of entrenched small-time corruption. One aspiring politician is accused of getting her bribe in a coffee cup chock-full of $100 bills. Another, a mayoral hopeful, of receiving his at his campaign headquarters in a bag stuffed with $10,000.

There was also a councilman who accepted a cash-stuffed envelope from a man who explicitly asked for a “quid pro quo,” according to a court document, and an official who funneled thousands of dollars into a charity he ran, then diverted the money for personal use.

These were among the allegations made in the eight political corruption cases announced by New Jersey prosecutors over five days this month. Taken together, the accusations offered a striking picture of entrenched small-time corruption at a time when questions of impropriety consume the national political debate.

gurbir grewal“To say we have a long and sordid history of corruption in this state would be understating it,” said New Jersey’s attorney general, Gurbir S. Grewal, left.

All but one of those charged were current or former elected officials or political candidates, and the accused included both Republicans and Democrats. They included a small-town mayor, a school board president and a man trying to hold on to his position as county freeholder.

‘I just wanna be your tax guy.’ ‘Done.’

In some ways, they were charged with crimes that were remarkably old-school. Between May and July of 2019, Jersey City’s school board president, Sudhan Thomas, was given $35,000 in cash in envelopes, according to a criminal complaint. One envelope filled with $25,000 was handed off in a restaurant parking lot.

In return for funds for his re-election campaign, Mr. Thomas offered to make the briber, who became a cooperating witness, the school board’s real estate counsel, the complaint said.

“Real estate … that’s perfect,” the witness said at one meeting, according to the complaint.

“Yeah, nobody questions anything,” Mr. Thomas said, the complaint said.

U.S. Social Justice

ny times logoNew York Times, Congress Saves Coal Miner Pensions, but What About Others? Mary Williams Walsh, Dec. 24, 2019. Lawmakers will use taxpayer money to fill a roughly $10 billion hole in the miners’ doomed fund. But more plans face the same problems.

For the first time in 45 years of federal pension law, taxpayer dollars will be used to bail out a fund for workers in the private sector. And now that there’s a precedent, it might not be the last.

“We could be the blueprint,” said Chuck Pettit, who mined coal for 42 years. “But we’ve got to do it right.”

The coal miners belong to one of about 1,400 pension plans that cover a large group of workers in a single industry or trade. These so-called multiemployer plans cover more than 10 million workers in unions including the Teamsters, the American Federation of Musicians, the Screen Actors Guild and, in Mr. Pettit’s case, the United Mine Workers of America. Even President Trump has a multiemployer pension, worth about $70,000 a year, earned in his reality-TV days.

But nearly three-quarters of the people with this type of pension are in plans that have less than half the money they need to pay promised benefits, according to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the federal agency that insures pension plans. Chronic underfunding, lax government oversight and serial bankruptcies have left them in dire straits. And the guaranty corporation’s program backing up these plans — which operated under the assumption that they were inherently strong — would be wiped out by the failure of just one of the major pension pools.

  • New York Times, The Cruelty of a Trump Christmas, Paul Krugman, Republicans aren’t Scrooges — they’re much worse.

Media / #MeToo

bombshell poster

ny times logoNew York Times, The Sexual Predator’s TV Wife, Amanda Hess, Dec. 24, 2019 (print ed.). Harassment has long been a hurdle on the anchorwoman’s rise to the top. New projects, like “The Morning Show” and “Bombshell,” examine what she has to do to stay there.

Sexual harassment has long been a part of the anchorwoman’s pop-culture origin story. Occasionally we even see it play out on television, as we did last month, when a race runner assaulted a local television reporter on the air, and she glared after him for less than a second before resuming her coverage. Mostly we see it in movies, romanticized in “Up Close and Personal” and skewered in “Anchorman,” both loosely inspired by the pioneering TV presenter Jessica Savitch. As our anchorwoman navigates the newsroom, she must brush off innuendo and swat away gropes in order to prove that she can cut it in an anchorman’s world. When she makes it to prime time, we know the credits are about to roll.

But lately we’ve caught a second look at this figure. “The Morning Show” (which is loosely inspired by Lauer’s fall at NBC) and the film “Bombshell” (which re-enacts Roger Ailes’s ouster from Fox News) train an eye on the veteran newswoman who has already fought her battles and secured her time slot. The dynamics of her workplace have not been totally reversed, but they have been scrambled. What does she do with her power? How does she maintain her position? What harassment does she endure, witness, abide?

A New Christmas Carol

Celtics Blog, Tacko Fall conducts the Boston Pops (Part 1), Staff report, Dec. 24, 2019. (2:56 min. video). Here’s 7-foot-6 Boston Celtics center Tacko Fall's experience conducting 85 masterclass musicians (with the help of conductor Keith Lockhart) and his journey going undrafted in July — and being embraced by the city and basketball team six months later:

“I think about it every night,” Fall said. “I talk to my mom pretty much every day. Some of the conversations we have is like — everything has changed. Everything that has been going on has been crazy. But at the same time, I always try to sit back and reflect and always have a sense of thankfulness.”

It’s been a season of good vibes and good cheer with the Celtics and over the last couple of nights, it’s been punctuated by a smattering of minutes filled by Fall. His size can be striking and intimidating, but that all seems to shrink away because of his enthusiasm and humble demeanor. He’s a shining example of how sports can often transcend what happens between the lines and teach us something about the world and ourselves.

Postscript: The Senegal native's first entrance into a home game, marked by fan support and his intense joy on Dec. 20, generated millions of fan views on YouTube. The Twitter feed

generated more than 5 million views by then.

Dec. 23

Impeachment Headlines

 

Trump Watch (Details)

Palmer Report, Donald Trump hits the panic button after second major evangelical publication calls for him to be removed from office, Bill Palmer, Dec. 23, 2019. When major evangelical publication Christianity Today called for Donald Trump’s removal from office on moral grounds this week, the question was whether this would be an isolated one-off blip, or the start of a trend. Now we’re starting to get our answer, and we’re also getting a sign of just how much of a problem the Trump regime thinks this is.

bill palmer report logo headerOver the weekend a second major evangelical publication, Christian Post, ran an op-ed with this headline: “Convict Trump: The Constitution is more important than abortion.” Just to leave no doubt whatsoever about what position it was taking, the op-ed opened with this sentence: “Christians should advocate for President Donald J. Trump’s conviction and removal from office by the Senate.”

These kinds of op-eds, on their own, are unlikely to turn the majority of evangelical voters against Trump. But even if these articles only end up causing Trump’s 2020 vote totals with evangelicals to drop a few percentage points, that could be enough to cost him the election, considering how thoroughly he relied on the evangelical vote in 2016. Trump knows he’s in trouble, too.

The Trump regime just announced an “Evangelicals for Trump” rally in Miami on January 3rd, according to a CBS affiliate. This event is being scheduled during Trump’s do-nothing holiday vacation in Florida, which is an indicator that Trump and his handlers don’t think they can afford to wait until after vacation is over to start trying to salvage the evangelical vote. Trump has a real problem here.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: McConnell chides Pelosi for not sending articles of impeachment to Senate, John Wagner​, Dec. 23, 2019. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of trying to tell his chamber how to run a trial.

mitch mcConnell o portraitBoth sides dug in Monday in the impasse over a Senate trial of President Trump, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, chiding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) for the delay in transmitting articles of impeachment, a position he called “absurd.”

Pelosi, meanwhile, insisted that before moving forward Democrats need to know “what sort of trial the Senate will conduct.” Democrats are seeking to use newly released emails showing that the White House put a hold on military aid to Ukraine less than two hours after Trump’s July call with the country’s leader to bolster their case that a Senate trial should include witnesses.

At the heart of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutor Surprises Even Allies With Statement on F.B.I.’s Trump Case, Elizabeth Williamson, Dec. 23, 2019. John Durham, the federal prosecutor investigating the origins of the Russia inquiry, has a reputation for keeping his mouth shut. At a sensitive moment, he didn’t.

Whether investigating charges of torture by the C.I.A., rolling up an organized crime network or prosecuting crooked government officials, John H. Durham, the veteran federal prosecutor named by Attorney General William P. Barr to investigate the origins of the Russia inquiry, burnished his reputation for impartiality over the years by keeping his mouth closed about his work.

At the height of the Boston mob prosecution that made his name, he not only rebuffed a local newspaper’s interview request, but he also told his office not to release his résumé or photo.

john durham CustomThat wall of silence cracked this month when Mr. Durham, left, serving in the most politically charged role of his career, released an extraordinary statement questioning one key element of an overlapping investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz.

Mr. Horowitz had found that the F.B.I. acted appropriately in opening the inquiry in 2016 into whether the Trump campaign wittingly or unwittingly helped Russia influence the election in Donald J. Trump’s favor. In response, Mr. Durham, whose report is not expected to be complete for months, released a caveat-laden rebuttal: “Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the F.B.I. case was opened.”

The statement seemed to support comments made half an hour earlier by Mr. Barr, who assailed what he called “an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign,” based “on the thinnest of suspicions.” Mr. Durham’s decision to go public in such a politically polarized environment surprised people who have worked with him. They found it out of character for him to intervene in such a high-profile way in an open case.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani gives completely unhinged new interview, has his fly down, starts drooling on his sweater, Bill Palmer, rudy giuliani recentDec. 23, 2019. The closer Rudy Giuliani comes to his arrest, the more he falls apart. He’s had incoherent meltdowns on television where he’s resorted to yelling “shut up idiot” at people. He’s tweeted things that read like they were copy-pasted from the Unabomber manifesto. But a newly published interview with New York Magazine might represent Rudy’s lowest point yet.

Rudy, shown at right in a file photo, met with New York Magazine reporter Olivia Nuzzi in an apparent attempt at taking control of the media narrative about his downfall. Rudy will certainly get some attention for this interview, but not the kind he’s looking for. For instance, Nuzzi writes that Rudy showed up to the interview with “the fly of the pants unzipped” and at one point he started drooling: “When his mouth closed, saliva leaked from the corner and crawled down his face through the valley of a wrinkle. He didn’t notice, and it fell onto his sweater.”

bill palmer report logo headerThe words that ended up coming out of Rudy’s mouth during this interview are even more disconcerting. He proclaimed that the Feds at the SDNY are “assholes” for criminally investigating him. He claimed that George Soros paid the FBI to do something to him. Rudy then made the bizarre and offensive assertion that “I’m more of a Jew than Soros is.”

At various points during the interview, Rudy Giuliani accidentally activated Siri on one of his three phones, and then ended up leaving another of his phones in the back of a car. Rudy was also apparently singing opera at one point. We double checked to make sure this interview wasn’t satire, but it turns out the whole thing really did happen.

New York Daily News, Rudy Giuliani rails against ‘a--hole’ New York prosecutors in belligerent, alcohol-fueled interview, Chris Sommerfeldt, Dec. 23, 2019. In an unhinged, alcohol-fueled interview published Monday, Rudy Giuliani railed against “a--hole” prosecutors in New York, claimed he’s “more of a Jew” than George Soros, spun outrageous conspiracy theories about Ukraine, fell into a wall and forgot to zip his fly.

The man formerly known as “America’s mayor” gave the unglued interview to New York Magazine on Dec. 8 over Bloody Marys at the Mark Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
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Giuliani had just returned from Ukraine, where he had continued hunting for dirt on President Trump’s political opponents despite the fast-moving impeachment proceedings.

He unleashed a torrent of insults against the federal prosecutors at the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan over revelations that they are investigating him as part of a criminal probe that involves his two Ukrainian dirt-digging pals, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas.

"If they’re investigating me, they’re a--holes. They’re absolutely a--holes if they’re investigating me,” he said. “They’re idiots.”
[More Politics] Trump admits he hasn’t yet gotten Melania a Christmas gift in holiday call with troops before lashing out at Democrats »

Giuliani — who used to run the U.S. attorney’s office in the 1980s — added, “I’ve been doing this for 50 years. I know how not to commit crimes.”

The ex-mayor also took aim at Soros, the Democratic Party mega-donor and Holocaust survivor who’s a frequent target of anti-Semitic right-wing conspiracy theories.

He claimed Soros “controlled” former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was removed from her post by Trump in April after Giuliani launched a smear campaign against her.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: McConnell has less power to shape the impeachment trial than Democrats think, David Super (professor of law at Georgetown University), Dec. 23, 2019.  This debate is remarkable because McConnell is unlikely to be making the key decisions about the shape of a Senate trial. The contours of the trial will be set by rules dating to the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, in 1868.

Those rules leave answers to such questions as whether witnesses will appear, and when the trial may be adjourned, to the chief justice of the United States, John G. Roberts Jr., who — as set forward in the Constitution — presides over the proceedings. By comparison, Schumer and McConnell are bit players.

  • Washington Post, How a Putin ally is aiding Giuliani in Ukraine, Editorial Board, Dec. 23, 2019.
  • New York Times, Opinion: What the Senate Does Now Will Cast a Long Shadow, Patrick Leahy, Dec. 23, 2019. Mitch McConnell and the other 99 senators must serve the institution and the Constitution that established it, not President Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Impasse over parameters of Senate trial is likely to last for weeks as both sides dig in, John Wagner and Paul Kane​, Dec. 23, 2019. Democrats demanded documents and witnesses while Republicans mocked the House’s delay in transmitting the impeachment articles across the Capitol.

• Analysis: New emails help peel back layers of pressure around Trump-Zelensky call

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why Iowa is so complicated, Jennifer Rubin, Dec. 23, 2019. In six weeks, Iowans will gather in schools, jennifer rubin new headshotcommunity centers and other locales to vote for the Democratic presidential nominee. The number of people who turn out for an evening to talk presidential politics with their neighbors is a sliver of the electorate. In 2016, a little more than 171,000 people participated in the Democratic Iowa caucuses in a two-person race that Hillary Clinton barely won; in the general election, more than 1.5 million Iowans voted.

On Feb. 3, there will be about a dozen candidates, five considered in the “viable” category. High turnout is expected. The winner could easily win with less than 25 percent of the votes. That could come out to be about 50,000 people.

Figuring out how to make sure your 50,000 voters get to the caucuses takes more than solid debate performances and catchy TV ads. You have to create enough excitement locally and build networks of voters so that voters don’t, for example, stay home to help their kids with homework.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Lawmaker Had Visions of a Christian Alternative Government, Mike Baker, Dec. 23, 2019. A state-sanctioned report accused Matt Shea of participating in domestic terrorism. Matt Shea was 34 years old when he ran for the State Legislature in eastern Washington, but he had already established credentials that made him a promising Republican candidate.

A lawyer trained at Gonzaga University who had served a tour in Iraq with Washington’s Army National Guard, Mr. Shea pitched voters in 2008 on a platform of limiting taxes and punishing criminals, opposing same-sex marriage and supporting gun rights. He went on to win matt sheawith nearly 60 percent of the vote, then moved up the ranks in the Legislature, reaching the powerful position of chair of his party’s caucus in 2017.

But back in his home district, Mr. Shea, right, also began attracting the attention of law enforcement for his growing embrace of fringe ideologies and conspiracy theories. He networked with local militia groups, talked about plans to create a 51st state called Liberty and distributed to his closest followers a “Biblical Basis for War” document that calls for the “surrender” of those who favor abortion rights, same-sex marriage, “idolatry” and communism. “If they do not yield — kill all males,” it said.

Last week, a report commissioned by the State Legislature asserted that Mr. Shea had engaged in domestic terrorism in his support of the armed takeover of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by militant ranchers and their supporters in 2016 — part of a protest over federal ownership of public lands in the West.

republican elephant logoThe scrubby pines and sparsely settled hills of the inland Northwest have long been seen as a potential homeland by fringe white supremacists and armed loners who are militantly suspicious of government power. But for the sheriff here in Spokane County, Ozzie Knezovich, Mr. Shea’s activities are part of a troubling trend: Far-right organizers have begun plying their message of civil conflict in mainstream political circles, building new networks that include elected politicians and voters who would never consider themselves part of an extremist group.

“I think a lot of people underestimate the size and the growth of what’s going on,” said Sheriff Knezovich, a longtime Republican who supports President Trump.

The report prepared for the Legislature found that Mr. Shea had played a role in planning the Malheur standoff, which sought to challenge the federal government’s control and management of public lands. Leaders in the standoff were charged but acquitted of crimes related to the event, which resulted in state troopers fatally shooting one participant.

But Mr. Shea and about two dozen of his trusted allies have quietly pursued ambitious plans that went far beyond the standoff at Malheur, preparing for what they saw as a fracturing United States.

They compiled manuals on everything from how to escape handcuffs to the operation of military weaponry and, according to the report to the legislators, laid the groundwork to form an alternative government that would be poised to take over after the expected fall of the United States government.

“He’s not about preserving America. They are about starting their own country,” said Sheriff Knezovich, who was concerned enough about Mr. Shea’s activities that he has gathered what he had found over the years and sent it to the F.B.I.

Matt Shea Wikipedia Bio Excerpt: In October 2018, Shea acknowledged that he had distributed a four-page manifesto which called for the killing of non-Christian males if a war were to occur and they do not agree to follow fundamentalist biblical law.

Shea was divorced from his first wife, Lisa, in January 2008. She was granted a protective order by a court after filing court documents complaining that Shea treated her "as a possession," and was physically and emotionally abusive. Lisa's brother-in-law testified in court documents that he saw Matt grabbing Lisa "very hard and violently" and pushed her into a vehicle. She attested that Matt "insisted she walk on his left side because his sword, if he had one, would be on his right side," forbade her from writing a church bulletin, and protested that he would not seek profitable employment despite being a lawyer.

Shea denied any physical abuse, called his ex-wife a "product of the foster care system," and said it this was her third divorce. Shea subsequently remarried.

Dec. 22

World News

Donald Trump and Kim Il Jong at meeting on June 12, 2018

Donald Trump and Kim Il Jong at meeting on June 12, 2018.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Braces for North Korean Missile Test as Trump’s Diplomacy Fizzles, David E. Sanger, Edward Wong and Michael Crowley, Dec. 22, 2019 (print ed.). Amid a diplomatic vacuum, North Korea has bolstered its arsenal of missiles and its stockpile of bomb-ready nuclear material. If the test goes ahead, it would be a glaring setback for President Trump’s boldest foreign policy initiative, even as he faces an impeachment trial at home.

North Korean flagAmerican military and intelligence officials tracking North Korea’s actions by the hour say they are bracing for an imminent test of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching American shores, but appear resigned to the fact that President Trump has no good options to stop it.

If the North goes ahead with the test in the coming days — Pyongyang promised a “Christmas gift” if no progress had been made on lifting sanctions — it would be a glaring setback for Mr. Trump’s boldest foreign policy initiative, even as he faces an impeachment trial at home.

American officials are playing down the missile threat, though similar tests two years ago prompted Mr. Trump to suggest that “fire and fury,” and perhaps a war, could result.

Mr. Trump often cites the suspension of long-range missile and underground nuclear tests for the past two years as evidence that his leader-to-leader diplomacy with the North was working — and that such negotiating skills would persuade the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to give up his arsenal.

U.S. Politics (Details below)

World News

  • New York Times, Behind the Poisoning That Exposed Russia’s Assassins in Europe, For years, members of a secret team, Unit 29155, operated without Western security officials having any idea about their activities. But an attack on an arms dealer in Sofia, Bulgaria, helped blow their cover.
  • New York Times, Boeing C.E.O.’s Stumbles Deepen a Crisis, As the grounding of the 737 Max has persisted, Dennis Muilenburg’s handling of the situation has angered lawmakers, regulators and victims’ families.
  • New York Times, Boeing Starliner Lands After Clock Error Prompts Early Return, The new ride to orbit built for NASA and its astronauts returned to Earth after problems during its first trip to space on Friday.

U.S. Justice System

washington post logoWashington Post, Court system will feel Trump’s influence for decades to come, Colby Itkowitz​, Dec. 22, 2019 (print ed.). After three years in office, President Trump has remade the federal judiciary, ensuring a conservative tilt for decades and cementing his legacy no matter the outcome of November’s election.

Trump nominees make up 1 in 4 U.S. circuit court judges. Two of his picks sit on the Supreme Court. And this past week, as the House voted to impeach the president, the Republican-led Senate confirmed an additional 13 district court judges.

In total, Trump has installed 187 judges to the federal bench.

Trump’s mark on the judiciary is already having far-reaching effects on legislation and liberal priorities. Just last week, the 5th Circuit struck down a core provision of the Affordable Care Act. One of the two appellate judges who ruled against the landmark law was a Trump appointee.

The Supreme Court — where two of the nine justices are conservatives selected by Trump — could eventually hear that case.

Fighting Kiddie Porn

 ny times logoNew York Times, Investigative Series: Fighting the Good Fight Against Online Child Sexual Abuse, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Dec. 22, 2019. To keep up with predators, child protection hotlines must constantly find ways to outsmart them. Several websites used by sexual predators were thwarted after a campaign by groups dedicated to eliminating the content, a rare victory in an unending war.

Across the internet, sexual predators flock to websites where they share images of child sexual abuse. Seven years ago, three such sites went online. Groups dedicated to protecting children quickly starting sending email notices to remove the illegal imagery.

As the imagery grew more extreme, the sites drew hundreds of thousands of visitors and found ways to hide behind tech companies. Finally, one group in Canada overwhelmed the sites, forcing the images offline with a computer program that sent more than a million of the notices.

It was an epic battle, but can it be repeated?

Articles in this series examine the explosion in online photos and videos of children being sexually abused. They include graphic descriptions of some instances of the abuse.

◾ Part 1: The Web's Darkest Corners
◾ Part 2: Pictures Are Forever
◾ Part 3: Predators in Your Home

U.S. Elder Care

washington post logoWashington Post, A desperate search for health care forces a husband and wife apart after 63 years, Eli Saslow​, Dec. 22, 2019 (print ed.). The plight of one Nebraska couple reflects the experience of rural Americans dependent on a nursing system that is collapsing and scattering the poorest residents across the plains.

Impeachment Headlines

webster tarpley podium2World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Trump Impeached — Twice! Webster G. Tarpley, right, Dec. 22, 2019 (83:39 mins.). Radio show adapted from web materials published on Tarpley.net on Dec. 19, 2019. As Congress leaves town until January 7, Pelosi delays sending of articles of impeachment to Senate, cleverly playing on divergences between Trump and McConnell; goal is to get 4-5 GOP senators to vote for witnesses in trial of trump; testimony of Bolton, Giuliani, Pompeo, and Mulvaney could trigger trump’s resignation;

Schumer optimistic; vote count is secondary to inducing trump to step down, possibly in plea deal; time to convince Romney, Murkowski, Collins, Alexander, Gardner, Tillis, McSally of need for full Senate trial!

By impeaching Trump, U.S. has demonstrated moral prerequisites to survive as free nation; he must now be removed in disgrace and barred from holding future federal office!

jeff flake owashington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The president is on trial. So are my Senate Republican colleagues, Jeff Flake, right, Dec. 22, 2019 (print ed.).

 To my former Senate Republican colleagues, I don’t envy you.

It might not be fair, but none of the successes, achievements and triumphs you’ve had in public office — whatever bills you’ve passed, hearings you’ve chaired, constituents you have had the privilege of helping — will matter more than your actions in the coming months.

President Trump is on trial. But in a very real sense, so are you. And so is the political party to which we belong.

We are conservatives. The political impulses that compelled us all to enter public life were defined by sturdy pillars anchored deep in the djt maga hatAmerican story. Chief among these is a realistic view of power and of human nature, and a corresponding and healthy mistrust of concentrated and impervious executive power. Mindful of the base human instincts that we all possess, the founders of our constitutional system designed its very architecture to curb excesses of power.

Those curbs are especially important when the power is wielded by a president who denies reality itself and calls his behavior not what it is, but “perfect.”

The willingness of House Republicans to bend to the president’s will by attempting to shift blame with the promotion of bizarre and debunked conspiracy theories has been an appalling spectacle. It will have long-term ramifications for the country and the party, to say nothing of individual reputations.

Nearly all of you condemned the president’s behavior during the 2016 campaign. Nearly all of you refused to campaign with him. You knew then that doing so would be wrong — would be a stain on your reputation and the standing of the Republican Party, and would do lasting damage to the conservative cause.

Ask yourself today: Has the president changed his behavior? Has he grown in office? Has the mantle of the presidency altered his conduct? The answer is obvious. In fact, if the president’s political rally in Michigan on Wednesday is any measure, his language has only become more vulgar, his performance cruder, his behavior more boorish and unstable.

djt rudy giuliani Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani hunker down together in Florida to hatch their next round of lunacy, Bill Palmer, Dec. 22, 2019. Over the past few days, Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani (shown in a file photo) have both been unusually quiet on Twitter. Rudy hasn’t tweeted since Thursday. Trump, apart from a few isolated explosions of confused rage, has been just as quiet. Now it turns out Trump and Rudy have something else in common at the moment: they’re both in Florida, hunkered down together and plotting their next round of lunacy.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump’s big plan to get himself off the impeachment hook was to try to force the Department of Justice Inspector General to announce that the Trump campaign was framed; that failed in hilarious fashion. Rudy Giuliani’s big plan to get Trump off the hook was to travel to Ukraine, film incoherent conversations with his own criminal co-conspirators, release those conversations to the media, and expect anyone to care. That’s also failed, and it’s probably added a few more years onto Rudy’s upcoming prison sentence.

But these two idiots don’t have an off button, so Trump and Rudy met up at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night. What did they discuss specifically? That hasn’t been reported, but Bloomberg is characterizing it as a “quick hello.” Translation: Trump’s camp knew the meeting would become public knowledge, and they’re trying to downplay it by framing it as a non-meeting.

In any case, these two guys are clearly plotting something new and deranged in the name of trying to get themselves off the hook. Keep in mind that Plan A (conspiring with Ukraine) was so dumb it got Trump impeached, Plan B (the DOJ IG report) went nowhere, Plan C (Rudy going back to Ukraine) has made things far worse for Rudy, and whatever Plan D these idiots are cooking up will be even dumber. But they have to keep trying, because Rudy is getting arrested any day now, and Trump will be immediately arrested if he loses the 2020 election.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: House freshmen get an education in limits of power and legislative pragmatism, Paul Kane, Dec. 22, 2019 (print ed.). The several-dozen first-time legislators are still learning two new jobs at once — being legislators and handling constituent service — all while trying to position themselves for reelection.

democratic donkey logoSome rookies have struggled with the inside politics of a byzantine institution that requires just as much glad-handing to senior lawmakers as it does policy expertise

They discovered that private discussions are not always so private, as internal rivals might leak a story to cut off their maneuvering. And their bloc lost two members — one to resignation after an extramarital affair was unmasked and another to a party switch to the GOP.

And all are learning the hard way how limited their power is, with hundreds of House-passed bills gathering dust in a Republican-led Senate that has no interest in the freshmen’s agenda. Even after a final moment that rallied the group together — every freshman Democrat voted to impeach President Trump — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has made plans for a speedy acquittal in the Senate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation on Sloppy accounting, funding debts: A look at Maya Rockeymoore Cummings’s charity, Steve Thompson, Dec. 22, 2019 (print ed.). For years, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings ran a charity so closely intertwined with her for-profit consulting firm that they shared the same employees, the same office space and the same director — her.

maya rockeymoore cummings twitterThe private firm carried out the charity’s mission of promoting public health and addressing racial and economic inequity under a cost-sharing agreement that gave the firm a 5 percent management fee. Rockeymoore Cummings, shown at left in a Twitter photo, signed a contract on behalf of both parties to set up the unusual relationship.

democratic donkey logoShe disclosed the arrangement to the Internal Revenue Service initially, but in subsequent years she checked “no” on the IRS Form 990 where it asked whether the charity did business with any entities owned by its director. A “yes” answer would have required her to provide more financial details. Lawyers who specialize in nonprofits say that’s to allow scrutiny by both the government and the public of whether the nonprofit’s funds are being used for charitable purposes, rather than private gain.

Rockeymoore Cummings, who is running for the congressional seat vacated by her late husband, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), says the tax-filing errors were honest mistakes that were later corrected and did not personally benefit her.

washington post logoWashington Post, Buttigieg shifts to center, embodying the Democratic primary’s rightward drift, Chelsea Janes, Dec. 22, 2019 (print ed.). When news first spread that a young, openly gay mayor from Indiana was running for president, the liberal potential of his pete buttigieg mayor south bend incandidacy seemed limitless: Pete Buttigieg supported Medicare-for-all, preached urgency on climate change, and demanded reforms such as abolishing the electoral college and overhauling the Supreme Court.

Eleven months later, Buttigieg looks more like a traditional centrist than a leftist force. Instead of Medicare-for-all, he favors a more limited public option.

democratic donkey logoEnvironmentalists complain his climate plan is less sweeping than his early rhetoric suggested it might be. After raising his hand at a debate to show support for decriminalizing border crossings, he clarified that he doesn’t actually hold that position.

The shifts reflect in part the broader trajectory of the Democratic primary, which initially appeared to herald a dramatic leftward surge. The center of gravity is settling in a less revolutionary place. Many liberals — at first excited by Buttigieg and the change he promised — now see him as embodying a dynamic they find deeply frustrating.

Media News / Defamation

washington post logoWashington Post, High-profile defamation cases, derided by critics as ‘libel tourism,’ find their way to Va., Justin Jouvenal​, Dec. 22, 2019. Legal experts say Virginia law allows those with deep pockets to bulldoze targets with frivolous, protracted and expensive litigation they couldn’t pursue in many other states. Among the plaintiffs: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and actor Johnny Depp,

devin nunes grimacingCongressman Devin Nunes, left, of California was angered by a story in his hometown newspaper detailing a claim that investors in a winery he partly owns partied with cocaine and prostitutes. So the Republican decided to sue — in rural Virginia.

Nunes bypassed the courthouse less than two miles from one of his offices and 10 blocks from the Fresno Bee to file the $150 million defamation claim against its owner 2,600 miles away. He also chose the Old Dominion to file two other recent defamation suits, one naming San Francisco-based Twitter and an anonymous user who has mocked him in the voice of an imaginary cow.

Likewise, actor Johnny Depp sued his ex-wife Amber Heard for $50 million in a Northern Virginia courthouse, claiming he was defamed in an op-ed in The Washington Post in which she called for support for domestic violence victims like herself. Both Depp and Heard live in Hollywood. Heard, who came to at least one hearing in the case, said in court filings that she had never previously set foot in the state.

The suits are part of a string of splashy defamation claims by politicians and the A-list star seeking nearly $1 billion in damages in Virginia courts this year, even though many of the cases have only loose connections to the state.

The plaintiffs argue their names have been smeared and the venues are appropriate, but several of the defendants — including Twitter and Heard — say the filing location is aimed at exploiting the state’s weak protections for defamation defendants. Legal experts say Virginia law allows those with deep pockets to bulldoze targets with frivolous, protracted and expensive litigation they couldn’t pursue in many other states.

The true goals of the suits, the defendants argue, are to stifle critics, blunt aggressive journalism and settle scores. Some deride the legal maneuvers as “libel tourism” and see a growing trend not just in Virginia but in other states that similarly lack safeguards. The suits have prompted Virginia lawmakers to look at changing the law.

CBS News, Schumer cites "explosive" email to call for witnesses at impeachment trial, Melissa Quinn, Dec. 22, 2019. Senate Minority Leader CBS News logoChuck Schumer continued to push for top administration officials to appear before the Senate in the upcoming impeachment trial, citing a newly revealed, "explosive" email from a White House aide as evidence for why witnesses should be called.

"Yesterday, we got new evidence about how important having these witnesses [is]," Schumer, a Democrat, said at a press conference Sunday in New York.

michael duffeyA new email obtained by the Center for Public Integrity and released Saturday shows Michael Duffey, right, associate director for National Security Programs at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), informed the Pentagon of the freeze on $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine just 91 minutes after President Trump's call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25.

During the call, Mr. Trump urged Zelensky to open an investigation into his Democratic political rivals. The phone call prompted House Democrats' impeachment inquiry into the president, as they examined whether Mr. Trump conditioned the security assistance and a White House meeting on a public announcement from Zelensky of investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

In the email, which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, Duffey directed the Pentagon to "please hold off on any additional DoD obligations of these funds" based on guidance he received and "in light of the administration's plan to review" the aid to Ukraine.

"Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute the direction," Duffey wrote in the email dated July 25.

Duffey is one of four White House officials that Schumer has called to testify before senators during the upper chamber's impeachment trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, has rebuffed the request. Duffey did not appear before the House during its months-long impeachment inquiry, as the White House blocked aides from complying with congressional subpoenas for testimony and agencies from turning over documents.

Dec. 21

Impeachment Headlines djt handwave file

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s trademark vindictiveness spares no one — living or dead, Ashley Parker, Dec. 21, 2019 (print ed.). The president’s barbs underscore the mean streak that is central to his brand and cast doubt on claims from his aides that Trump is merely a counterpuncher. Midway through his rally in Battle Creek, Mich., this week, President Trump’s trademark vindictiveness bumped up against the limits of decency as he began to disparage a dead man.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)Turning his attention to Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), the widow of former congressman John Dingell, left, the president suggested that rather than looking down from heaven, as Debbie had previously told him, perhaps John was “looking up” from hell.

john dingell headshotThe crowd murmured, the crowd grimaced, the crowd groaned. There were cheers and applause, too, but the pockets of hesitation from some of his most loyal supporters underscored a striking note of discomfort with the president’s mean streak.

Trump backtracked slightly, saying, “Let’s assume he’s looking down.”

Over the past dozen days or so, the president has spewed forth an advent calendar’s worth of cruelty — new barbs popping out almost daily, like so many tiny bitter chocolates — underscoring the instinctual nastiness that is central to his brand and casting doubt on claims from his aides that Trump is merely a counterpuncher.

In addition to taunting John Dingell as his widow prepared for her first holiday season without her husband of 38 years, Trump also ridiculed everyone from greta thunberg charles lindbergh time coversclimate activist Greta Thunberg (shown at right with the late aviator Charles Lindbergh as Time Magazine "Persons of the Year") to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.)

Others in his orbit exhibited similar callousness this week. Sarah Sanders, the former White House press secretary, came under near-universal condemnation Thursday night after sending a tweet that mocked former vice president Joe Biden’s stutter, after he brought it up during a Democratic primary debate. She later deleted, and apologized for, her tweet.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump rages at Christian magazine that called him ‘grossly immoral,’ but still finds evangelical support, Josh Dawsey and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Dec. 21, 2019 (print ed.). Beneath the president’s outbursts lies a fear that he could lose some evangelical supporters ahead of the 2020 election.

President Trump, whose reelection campaign is counting on unstinting support from white evangelicals, mounted a fierce attack Friday against a prominent Christian magazine that harshly criticized his behavior, repudiated his actions toward Ukraine and said he should be removed from office.

billy graham april 1 1966 us news world report lib o congressTrump’s evangelical supporters rushed to defend him, attempting to portray Christianity Today, which was founded by late famed evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham (shown in 1966 at right), as an outlier and not representative of the voters that comprise their movement.

But the magazine’s unsparing Thursday editorial, which said Trump has a “grossly immoral character” and should be removed out of “loyalty to the creator of the Ten Commandments,” clearly rattled the White House and the evangelical leaders who have tied themselves closely to the president.

Beneath the president’s angry outbursts lies a fear that, ahead of the 2020 election, Trump could lose some evangelical supporters, who as a group have remained durably bonded to him despite his payments to an adult-film star after allegations of an affair; attacks on war heroes, congressional widows and a teenage climate activist; boasts of sexual assault caught on tape; and the regular use of profanity at rallies from behind the presidential lectern.

  • New York Times, Evangelical Leaders Close Ranks With Trump After Scathing Editorial, Christianity Today’s call for the president’s removal gave voice to his evangelical critics. But they remain a minority in a movement that Mr. Trump has reshaped.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Billy Graham’s grandkids come out swinging at Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 21, 2019. On Thursday, leading evangelical publication Christianity Today – originally founded by the late Billy Graham – published an op-ed calling for Donald Trump to be removed from office on moral grounds. On Friday, Trump erupted with anger at the publication, falsely accusing it of being a liberal outlet, and getting its name wrong. Billy Graham’s son Franklin Graham then attacked Christianity Today, and made the dubious claim that Billy Graham voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

bill palmer report logo headerBut now two of Billy Graham’s family members are praising Christianity Today for standing up to Donald Trump. Graham’s granddaughter Jerushah Duford appeared on CNN and said this: “My grandfather always said courage is contagious. My hope is that an article like this will be a first step for people to actually stand up.”

Billy Graham’s grandson Boz Tchividjian said this: “A heavy hearted bravo to CT! Well said on so many levels. I believe my grandfather would have had a similar perspective. Thank you.”

Meanwhile Donald Trump is foundering in his attempts at addressing the controversy. In a Twitter meltdown he appeared to accuse Christianity Today of being run by socialists or communists. He also inexplicably referred to the publication as “ET” – setting off endless memes about Entertainment Tonight and ET the Extra Terrestrial.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House threatened to veto spending bill over Ukraine payments, Erica Werner, Dec. 21, 2019 (print ed.). Language in the legislation would have required the prompt release of future military aid. A veto could have led to a government shutdown on Saturday.

Senior Trump administration officials in recent days threatened a presidential veto that could have led to a government shutdown if House Democrats refused us senate logoto drop language requiring prompt release of future military aid for Ukraine, according to five administration and congressional officials.

The language was ultimately left out of mammoth year-end spending legislation that passed the House and Senate this week ahead of a Saturday shutdown deadline. The White House said President Trump signed the $1.4 trillion package Friday night.

The Ukraine provision was one of several items the White House drew a hard line on during negotiations to finalize the spending legislation, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the developments. It would have required the White House to swiftly release $250 million in defense money for Ukraine that was part of the spending package.

Impeachment

Palmer Report, Here’s what really happens next with the Senate impeachment trial, Bill Palmer, Dec. 21, 2019. Nancy Pelosi holds all the cards on impeachment, as she keeps reminding us. But no one in politics ever has a magic wand or gets 100% of their way, so even she can’t force Mitch McConnell to hold a perfectly fair Senate impeachment trial. She’ll get as many trial concessions from him as possible, and then at some unknown point she’ll turn over the articles to him.

bill palmer report logo headerAt this point most of the mainstream media will act shocked that Pelosi got anything at all from McConnell, because they’re still pushing the ratings-friendly false narrative that the Democrats are going to lose on impeachment at every turn. The foot-stompers of the left don’t understand “what’s possible” or “what winning looks like.” So they’ll be pissed at Pelosi when she eventually turns over the articles of impeachment and she only gets major concessions, instead of magically getting 100% of what she’d like. At this point most liberal pundits will pander to this sentiment by insisting that Pelosi “inexplicably caved” like the “democrats always do.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Trump’s conversations with Putin overlapped with his emerging Ukraine conspiracy theories, Philip Bump, Dec. 21, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump had been publicly questioning Russia’s involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee for months by the time he took office.

One former official in President Trump’s administration was explicit when speaking with The Washington Post’s Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig.

vladimir putin o wAsked why he believed Ukraine was the country responsible for interfering in the 2016 election, the official said that Trump answered directly: “Putin told me” — referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, right.

It’s not clear when that is alleged to have happened, precisely. Trump had been publicly questioning Russia’s involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee for months by the time he was president, claiming on multiple occasions that perhaps it was another country that had access the DNC’s network early in 2016. Maybe, he said in a general-election debate, it was China or “lots of other people” who hacked the DNC.

Palmer Report, We told you Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal was going to get a lot worse before his impeachment trial, Bill Palmer, Dec. 21, 2019.  Donald Trump is pressuring Mitch McConnell to hold a swift Senate impeachment trial and acquittal. Nancy Pelosi is waiting to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate until McConnell makes some concessions toward having a fair trial (or at least one that includes some witnesses against Trump). Even as this chess match plays out, there’s another angle to all of this as well – and it just came into play.

bill palmer report logo headerThe House impeachment hearings brought as much dirt to the surface as possible in Donald Trump’s Ukraine extortion scandal. But before the House hearings, the media had already dug up a bunch of dirt in the scandal. While the hearings were going on, the media found even more dirt. It was a given that after the House hearings ended, the media would uncover even more dirt. Sure enough it’s already happening.

Public Integrity has just gotten its hands on documents showing that immediately after Donald Trump’s infamous phone call with the President of Ukraine, the Trump regime began illegally freezing U.S. military aid to Ukraine. The documents further prove that it wasn’t mere coincidence, and that there was a conspiracy to keep the whole thing under wraps.

But the House impeachment hearings are already over, you say. Isn’t this bad timing? No, it’s perfect. The two articles of impeachment are broad enough to stand on their own, even as more details of the criminal plot emerge. The articles don’t need to be revisited or revised. This new dirt does, however, make these articles of impeachment more powerful. The more dirt the average American hears from the media about the Ukraine scandal in the coming weeks, the more likely that person is to 1) support impeachment and removal, and 2) want a fair Senate impeachment trial that isn’t merely a sham acquittal.

Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans understand this. They’ll be watching the dirt on Donald Trump get worse and worse in the coming weeks, and they’ll see more Americans in the middle start to side with impeachment and removal. The more time that elapses between now and the start of the trial, the harder it’ll be for Senate Republicans to rubber-stamp Trump’s acquittal without putting their own Senate majority at risk in 2020. And if they do acquit him and then even more dirt surfaces, they’ll be punished in 2020 for having acquitted a guy who then turned out to be maniacally guilty.

World News

Associated Press via Washington Post, India suspends internet and phone services to quell protests, Sheikh Saaliq, Dec. 21, 2019. Indian authorities have stepped india flag mapup phone and mobile internet shutdowns in some parts of the country in an effort to thwart a groundswell of protests over a new citizenship law that excludes Muslims.

Student-led protests that have galvanized a large section of the Indian public have been met with communications blocks in areas of New Delhi, in the eastern state of West Bengal, the northern city of Aligarh and the entire state of Assam in the days since the contentious law was passed in Parliament

Other news:

  • Washington Post, Top scientists warn that Amazon rainforest has hit a ‘tipping point,’ Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis, Dec. 21, 2019 (print ed.). Deforestation threatens to turn parts of the rainforest into savanna, experts said.
  • Washington Post, Under secret Stephen Miller plan, ICE to use data on migrant children to expand deportation efforts, Nick Miroff, Agents will vet adults who come to claim migrant children and will seek to deport those who are rejected as sponsors.

U.S. Justice System

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Why Is the Justice Department Treating T-Mobile Like a Client? Editorial Board, Dec. 21, 2019 (print ed.). Antitrust officials are supposed to prevent problematic corporate mergers. Instead, they’re helping shepherd deals. Makan Delrahim, the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, is paid by taxpayers to prevent corporate mergers that damage the public interest. Instead of doing this important police work, however, Mr. Delrahim has chosen to cast himself as a deal maker.

Justice Department log circularThe Times reported on Thursday that Mr. Delrahim worked assiduously this past summer to clear the way for the merger of two rival mobile phone companies, T-Mobile and Sprint, by helping to arrange for the two companies to sell some assets to a third company, Dish. Mr. sprint tmobile logosDelrahim behaved like a man who wanted to make a deal. In text messages, which were disclosed as part of a related court case, he repeatedly coaxed and cajoled executives at the three companies, as well as federal officials who had the ability to block the merger.

Mr. Delrahim has cast his actions as a defense of the public interest. In announcing that the Justice Department had approved the merger in July, he said that he had been prepared to go to court to block the merger had Dish not participated in the agreement. The asset sales are intended to allow Dish to emerge as a viable new mobile phone company, filling the void when Sprint departs the marketplace.

ny times logoNew York Times, Homelessness in U.S. Rises 2.7 Percent, Driven by California’s Crisis, Report Says, Lola Fadulu, Dec. 21, 2019 (print ed.). Homelessness rose 2.7 percent from 2018 to 2019, according to the annual assessment by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That figure was pulled upward by a 16.4 percent increase in homelessness in California, which is struggling with out-of-reach housing costs and intractable fights over affordable housing construction.

A summary of the report was first published by The Associated Press.

ben carsonBen Carson, right, the secretary of housing and urban development, blamed welfare programs that he said fostered dependency and despair. On President Trump’s favorite cable program, “Fox & Friends,” on Friday, Mr. Carson said policies that allowed people to sleep on streets, bridges and other public places were not compassionate.

The administration has yet to release its promised homelessness plan for California, but activists fear Mr. Trump's pending executive order could crack down on homeless encampments, give more resources to police departments to clear shanty towns and threaten cities that fail to control their homeless populations.

washington post logoWashington Post, West Point cadets and Navy midshipmen were playing the ‘circle game,’ not making a racist gesture, investigators say, Lauren Lumpkin, Dec. 21, 2019 (print ed.). Investigators at the U.S. Naval and Military academies said cadets and midshipmen who flashed hand gestures at a recent football game were playing “the circle game,” not trying to convey a message of white supremacy.

The incident, which gained national attention, involved three Military Academy cadets and two Naval Academy midshipmen. They made the “okay” sign with their fingers while standing behind an ESPN reporter before the annual Army-Navy football game Dec. 14.

Epstein Scandal

alexander acosta o cropped Custom

Chron, House asks for documents in Epstein probe from DOJ, Staff report, Dec. 20, 2019. House Democrats asked for documents from federal prosecutors and Florida law enforcement officials on Friday as part of a probe into how financier Jeffrey Epstein received a secret plea deal more than a decade ago after he was accused of molesting underage girls.

U.S. House logoThe House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, asking for all emails about the plea deal and how victims should have been notified.

jeffrey epstein sex offenderEarlier this year, a federal judge ruled Epstein's victims should have been consulted under federal law about the deal.

Epstein reached the deal in 2008 with then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta's office to end the federal probe that could have landed him in prison for life. Epstein instead pleaded guilty to lesser state charges, spent 13 months in jail, paid financial settlements to victims and registered as a sex offender.

Acosta, shown at top, was appointed Labor Secretary by President Donald Trump, but he resigned in July amid renewed scrutiny of the secret plea deal.

The House committee asked for the documents by the first week in January.

The House committee also sent a letter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Richard Swearingen, asking for documents related to its investigation into the deal and Epstein's work-release arrangement at Palm Beach County's jail.

During his 13-month stay at the jail, Epstein spent most days at his office. His driver would pick him and a guard up in the morning and he would spend the day working and meeting with visitors, before returning to the jail to sleep. Epstein was also able to visit his Palm Beach mansion, despite restrictions on home visits.

Epstein, 66, killed himself in his New York City jail cell in August after federal agents arrested him on new sex trafficking charges, according to authorities.

Dec. 20

Political & World Headlines

Impeachment Headlines djt handwave file

 

Impeachment News Noted Above  

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Democrats can prevent a sham trial in the Senate if they hang tough, Max Boot, Dec. 20, 2019 (print ed.). mitch mcConnell o portraitSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, had a plan to quickly dispose of the articles of impeachment just approved by the House: He would hold a two-week sham trial without any witnesses, and then the Senate Republican majority would acquit President Trump, despite the overwhelming weight of evidence showing that he is guilty as charged of abusing his power and obstructing Congress.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), acting on an idea suggested by Harvard Law Professor Laurence H. Tribe in a Post op-ed, has thrown a spanner into the works by refusing to appoint impeachment managers until there is some guarantee of a fair trial in the Senate.

democratic donkey logoOn Thursday, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) suggested that Democrats were willing to wait “as long as it takes” before sending over the articles of impeachment. “It looks like the prosecutors are getting cold feet,” McConnell shot back on Thursday. To the contrary, the prosecutors are getting smart: They realize there is no need to play a rigged game.

  • Washington Post, Influential evangelical magazine Christianity Today: Trump should be removed from office

 washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Determining what makes a ‘fair’ Senate trial, Amber Phillips, Dec. 20, 2019 (print ed.). House Democrats are considering holding back articles of impeachment to try to get this. But will it work?

Minutes after one impeachment brawl concluded with the official impeachment of President Trump, House Democrats jumped into us senate logoanother: They are considering pressuring Senate Republicans to hold a fair Senate trial by detaining the articles of impeachment.

The question is: What constitutes a fair trial?

If all goes as House Democrats would like, that question could exploit a rift between Senate Republican leaders and Trump on how to handle the next phase of this process.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Democrats May Save Us Yet, Paul Krugman, right, Dec. 20, 2019 (print ed.). America’s defenders of democracy paul krugmantake a stand. For me, and no doubt for millions of my fellow citizens, Wednesday was a very emotional day — a day of both despair and hope.

The reasons for despair are obvious. We could so easily lose everything America is supposed to stand for. The birthplace of liberty may very well be just months away from abandoning all its ideals.

The enemies of freedom are, it turns out, as shameless and corrupt here as they are in nations, from Hungary to Turkey, in which democracy has effectively collapsed. But the defenders of American democracy seem more united and determined than their counterparts abroad. The big question is whether that difference — that true American exceptionalism — will be enough to save us.

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s impeachment provokes a descent into demagoguery, Dana Milbank, Dec. 20, 2019 (print ed.). It was 9:05 Wednesday night. Seven minutes earlier, President Trump received word, in the middle of a campaign speech, that he had been impeached by john dingell headshotthe House on the second of two articles. And how did he observe this somber moment?

He mocked the widow of the longest-serving House member in history.

“Dingell! Dingell! … Debbie Dingell, that’s a real beauty,” Trump told a crowd in Michigan, the home state of Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell and the husband she succeeded, John Dingell, left. He ridiculed the gratitude she showed Trump for her husband’s funeral honors this year. Then he speculated that John Dingell might now be “looking up” from hell. The crowd cheered.

What is wrong with this man?

washington post logoWashington Post, Christianity Today, an influential evangelical magazine, says Trump ‘should be removed from office,’ Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Kayla Epstein, Dec. 20, 2019. The evangelical magazine founded by the late Rev. Billy Graham published a surprising editorial Thursday calling for President Trump’s removal. The magazine, Christianity Today, has been critical of Trump but not politically outspoken during his administration.

The editorial, which appeared to draw so many readers that the magazine’s website crashed briefly, was written by editor in chief Mark Galli, who called Trump “a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.”

Donald Trump“Whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office by the Senate or by popular vote next election — that is a matter of prudential judgment,” the editorial said. “That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.”

Galli, who will retire from the magazine Jan. 3, wrote that the facts leading to Wednesday’s impeachment of Trump are unambiguous. But the editorial didn’t just call out Trump. It called out his devout Christian supporters.

[Trump’s hell suggestion outraged some faith leaders, but his evangelical advisers are still defending him]

“To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve,” Galli wrote. “Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and donald trump twitterSavior.”

Trump lashed out at the magazine in a pair of early-morning tweets Friday, calling Christianity Today a “far left magazine ... which has been doing poorly.”

Graham had close friendships with several presidents before he died in 2018, but said late in his life that he wished he had distanced franklin graham twitter Customhimself more politically.

Graham’s son, the Rev. Franklin Graham, right, has been a highly vocal supporter of Trump and prayed at his inauguration. In an interview, Franklin Graham, who is not involved with Christianity Today, said his father would have been disappointed by the magazine’s stance because he said his father liked Trump and that they were friends.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Tyranny of the 63 Million, Michelle Goldberg, Dec. 20, 2019 (print ed.). Impeachment didn’t undermine michelle goldberg thumbdemocracy. It vindicated it.

The right’s bombastic repetition of Trump’s 63 million could be just a propaganda trick meant to bully America’s anti-Trump majority into seeing itself as marginal, despite the more than 65 million votes Clinton received. But as I watched impeachment unfold, it seemed like something more than that — an assertion of whom Republicans think this country belongs to.

Over the last three years, a political narrative has developed that Republicans in Congress secretly dislike Trump but overlook his personal degeneracy in the interest of enacting their agenda. Wednesday should explode that fiction forever.

djt maga hatThe Republican identification with Trump is total. Again and again, histrionic Republican congressmen equated hatred of the president with hatred of themselves and hatred of the sacred 63 million. They spoke of Trump with an awe and a maudlin devotion bordering on religious; Barry Loudermilk, a Georgia Republican, declared that Trump had been given less due process than Jesus Christ himself.

If Trump is a martyr, who are his persecutors? You could watch the debate with the sound off and understand. All day, Republican speeches delivered by old white men alternated with Democratic speeches from women, people of color and young people. White men make up 90 percent of the Republican caucus and 38 percent of the Democratic one, and the day dramatized the representational gulf in the starkest visual terms.

Palmer Report, Nancy Pelosi uses State of the Union invite to twist the knife against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 20, 2019. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has found a whole new way to twist the knife against Donald Trump, simply by doing her job in a particularly auspicious way.

bill palmer report logo headerNancy Pelosi just sent Donald Trump a letter inviting him to deliver his State of the Union address on February 4th. The letter emphasizes things like Congress being “co-equal” and the branches “acting as checks on each other.” In other words, she’s reminding him that she has all kinds of constitutional power over him. But the letter itself, which is a formality, is secondary to the timing.

Donald Trump is pushing Mitch McConnell hard for a swift Senate impeachment trial and acquittal. But McConnell can’t make that happen unless he makes at least some concessions to Pelosi about the fairness of the trial, or she’ll keep sitting on the articles of impeachment. Now Trump suddenly faces the very real possibility of having to give his State of the Union address at a time when he’s been impeached but hasn’t been acquitted.

If that happens, Donald Trump will use his speech to go embarrassingly bonkers. He’ll viciously attack House members to their faces during the address. He’ll further alienate the voters in the middle, who don’t like him much but haven’t decided whether or how to vote in 2020, who will decide his fate.

If Trump’s handlers want to avoid such a scene, they’ll have to convince him not to show up for the State of the Union at all, which would also make him look bad. Or they’ll have to convince McConnell to cave to Pelosi, which would mean Trump’s own people testifying against him during the Senate impeachment trial, so it can take place before the speech.

noah feldman pamela karlan michael gerhardt jonathan turley abc Custom

Law professors Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Michael Gerhardt and Jonathan Turley at House Judiciary Committee Hearing this month (ABC News photo).

djt impeachment collage Custom 2

On Wednesday, almost every news outlet in America published headlines saying that Mr. Trump had been impeached. Was that wrong?

ny times logoNew York Times, A Law Professor’s Provocative Argument: Trump Has Not Yet Been Impeached, Adam Liptak, right, Dec. 20, 2019. Other adam liptaklegal academics took issue with his view that impeachment only happens when the House transmits its charges to the Senate.

Maybe President Trump has not been impeached after all, or at least not yet. Impeachment happens, according to Noah Feldman, a Harvard law professor, only when the House transmits the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

So “technically speaking,” he said, “the president still hasn’t been impeached.” That idea has left much of the legal academy unconvinced, including Laurence H. Tribe, one of Professor Feldman’s colleagues at Harvard. “The argument is textually bizarre, historically inaccurate, structurally misguided and functionally misleading,” Professor Tribe said.

Professor Feldman was one of three constitutional scholars to testify in favor of impeachment before the House Judiciary Committee this month. Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University and the sole scholar invited by Republicans to testify against impeachment at that hearing, also disagreed with Professor Feldman.

djt impeached nydailynews cover dec.19 2019 CustomMr. Trump was impeached on Wednesday, Professor Turley said. “Article I, Section 2 says that the House ‘shall have the sole power of impeachment.’ It says nothing about a requirement of referral to complete that act.”

The question of precisely when impeachment happens would ordinarily be of interest to almost no one. But it has taken on at least symbolic weight given Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statement that the House may not transmit the articles of impeachment until it is satisfied that the Senate will conduct a fair trial.

Professor Feldman set out his views in a Bloomberg Opinion article on Thursday and elaborated on them in an interview. History supported his position, he said, as the framers of the Constitution drew on English procedures under which the House of Commons brought charges of impeachment to the House of Lords.

But impeachment is functionally similar to a criminal indictment, and few people would say a grand jury had not indicted someone after voting to do so even if no trial followed. But Professor Feldman said that was a poor analogy.

Professor Feldman said he had no quarrel with the headlines, which he said used an acceptable colloquial shorthand. But, he added, “it’s not accurate in a technical, historical or constitutional sense.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Mitch McConnell, Master of the Blockade, Plots Impeachment Strategy, Carl Hulse, Dec. 20, 2019. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, mitch mcconnell elevator getty croppedhas earned the nickname “the grim reaper” for his iron-fisted grip on the chamber. Now his latest test will be making short work of President Trump’s impeachment trial while keeping his own party unified.

Shattering convention, he held open a Supreme Court seat for 11 months. He twice changed Senate rules to create a record-setting assembly line of conservative federal judicial confirmations. He has been ruthless in his control of the Senate floor, denying Republicans and Democrats alike much opportunity to debate legislation.

In response, Democrats have called Senator Mitch McConnell, right, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, the grim reaper. He embraces the nickname with enthusiasm.

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Politico, 'I'm never afraid and I'm rarely surprised': Pelosi emboldened, Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan, Dec. 20, 2019. The speaker, shown above in a file photo, reflects on Trump and a tumultuous year back in the majority in an interview with Politico.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is heading into the holidays emboldened, finishing a tumultuous year back in the majority by both impeaching President Donald Trump and then muscling through the House his biggest legislative win on trade — a signature issue for him — all within 24 hours.

Pelosi was assertive and upbeat during a year-end interview in her speaker’s suite Thursday, punching back at her GOP critics, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“Oh pfft,” Pelosi told POLITICO, waving her hand dismissively when asked about McConnell’s suggestion she was “too afraid” to send him the articles of impeachment against Trump, which would trigger a Senate trial on whether to oust the president.

“Fear is never a word used with me. You should know right away,” Pelosi added. “I’m never afraid and I’m rarely surprised.”

The California Democrat’s confidence comes after Congress wrapped up a heavy legislative workload for 2019, including passing key pieces of her party’s agenda. Lawmakers eagerly departed the Capitol Thursday for a nearly three-week recess, although many questions remain unanswered about the next steps on impeachment.

CBS Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Political Comedy: "Once Upon Impeachment," A Late Show Animated Christmas Classic, Dec. 20, 2019.
cbs logoWith the holidays upon us, we here at The Late Show have a present for you: a brand new animated Christmas classic from the creators of "Our Cartoon President" whose third season starts in January on Showtime.

U.S. 2020 Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, An Angry Trump Looks to Vindication in November, Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, Jeremy W. Peters and Elaina Plott, Dec. 20, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump, barring the unforeseen, will be the first U.S. president to face voters after being charged with high crimes and misdemeanors. Mr. Trump’s operation mounted a counterassault on what the president described as scheme orchestrated by Democrats to nullify his election.

democratic december debate ny times

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Who’s Best to Beat Trump? 7 Answers When 7 Democrats Debate, Jonathan Martin, Dec. 20, 2019 (print ed.). The candidates (shown above in a New York Times graphic) made a case for the nomination, onstage together for one last time this year.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, right, argued that Democrats would defeat President Trump if they “draw the sharpest distinction” with what she called the administration’s corruption — elizabeth warren cfpband suggested that Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s high-dollar fund-raising would undermine their ability to do that. Mr. Buttigieg said his party could scarcely afford to hew to such “purity tests” in a race against Mr. Trump.

And Senator Amy Klobuchar was even less subtle, repeatedly citing her heartland roots to argue that Democrats could win only if they put a Midwesterner like her “at the top of the ticket,” while recalling that Mr. Buttigieg had been soundly defeated in his one statewide race in Indiana.

In Washington, those who make politics a vocation or an avocation are consumed with this week’s impeachment of Mr. Trump, the branding of a scarlet I upon his tenure. But on the other side of the country, on the Democratic debate stage in Los Angeles, the candidates circled around a different vowel, and a different word — the E word.

As in: “electability.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Confrontation between Warren and Buttigieg livens debate, Matt Viser, Michael Scherer and Amy B Wang. Dec. 20, 2019 (print ed.). A pointed and personal clash over the corrupting influence of wealthy campaign donors dominated the sixth pete buttigieg mayor south bend indebate of Democratic 2020 hopefuls.

A pointed and personal clash over the corrupting influence of wealthy campaign donors dominated the Democratic presidential debate Thursday, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, right, tangled over each other's ability to govern with integrity.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A collegial start gives way to fireworks, Dan Balz, Dec. 20, 2019. Pete Buttigieg takes heat from Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar as the candidates jockey for advantage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Seven candidates on stage, six questionable claims, Glenn Kessler and Salvador Rizzo​, Dec. 20, 2019. Who said the statements that merited some attention? The sixth Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 campaign, hosted by PBS and Politico, had 7 candidates, lasted more than 2 1/2 hours — and did not have many statements that merited fact-checking. Here are six claims that caught our attention, some of which may seem familiar from previous debates. Our practice is not to award Pinocchios in debate roundups.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Joe Biden had his best debate yet. But the wine cave business lost, Jennifer Rubin, right, Dec. 20, 2019 (print ed.). Members of the mainstream media have recently noticed former vice president Joe Biden’s durability in the Democratic presidential primary race. jennifer rubin new headshotReporters seem to also have recognized that Twitter is not the Democratic primary electorate, and that the latter really likes Biden. Biden and his team’s insight into the identity of the Democratic Party, one Twitter does not accurately reflect, might be paying off.

dnc horizontal logoHe had arguably his best debate, starting with a high-minded statement on impeachment. When asked next about the middle class, he came alive, speaking fluently about the disproportionate benefit the wealthy get. (“We have to eliminate a significant number of these god-awful tax cuts that were given to the very wealthy,” he declared.)

This is the Biden many voters recall, sticking up for working people in plainspoken language. (“The middle class is getting crushed.”) He was equally articulate and passionate on climate change, showing a firm grip on details and his telltale optimism. (“We’re the only country in the world that’s ever taken great, great crises and turned them into enormous opportunities.")

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Unwelcome Christmas present for Matt Gaetz: 2016 Oppo Research Report, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWayne Madsen, Dec. 20, 2019. In what is certain to be an unwelcome early Christmas present for Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), one of Donald John Trump's more bombastic loyalists in the U.S. House, WMR is making available to its readers a 2016 internal use only opposition research report commissioned by one of Gaetz's GOP primary opponents.

mark gaetz 2008 mugThe oppo report exposes Gaetz (shown in a 2008 mug shot) on several fronts. Included are Gaetz's financial issues regarding personal funds for which he did not account on his mandatory financial disclosure forms, his drunk driving and other law enforcement infraction incidents, and his sexual indiscretions....

Gaetz's voting record while he was a member of the Florida House of Representatives also calls into question the special interests that backed his campaigns for the state legislature and U.S. House.

usa today logoUSA Today, Rudy Giuliani: Democrats 'want to execute me,' Savannah Behrmann, Dec. 20, 2019. / Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, claimed Thursday to a crowd of conservative high school students that Democrats want to "execute" him.

rudy giuliani recentThe former New York City Mayor spoke at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida, a day after the House of Representatives voted along mostly party lines to impeach President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Giuliani, shown in a file photo at right, touted to the crowd that Democrats are "moving" America towards "a dictatorship" with the impeachment process and "taking our Constitution and tearing it up."

Giuliani claimed the Democrats "want to put [Attorney General Bill] Barr in prison and they want to execute me," saying that "The Mafia, the FARC, and the word you can't say — Islamic extremist terrorists — have all taken out contracts of one kind or another to kill me. And my answer is good luck. I just get angrier and I go after you more."

Palmer Report, Opinion: Sarah Huckabee Sanders posts utterly deranged tweet about Joe Biden, ends up being forced to delete it and apologize, Bill Palmer, Dec. 20, 2019. Sarah Huckabee Sanders may no longer be part of Donald Trump’s White House, but on Thursday night she reminded us that she’s still as much of a vile piece of crap as ever. During the Democratic 2020 primary debate, Sanders posted a tweet about Joe Biden that was so profoundly offensive and deranged, she received so much pushback that she ended up having to delete it and apologize.

bill palmer report logo headerJoe Biden has been open about the fact that he’s spent his life working to overcome a stutter. During the 2020 election cycle, major news outlets have done entire exposes on Biden’s stutter. If you’re so deeply involved in politics that you’re a recent former White House official like Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know full well about Biden’s stutter. So she knew precisely what she was doing when she posted this tweet during the debate: “I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I hhhave absolutely no idea what Biden is talking about.”

Sanders received immediate widespread pushback, to the point that her tweet was being ratioed with negative comments that far exceeded the number of likes she was receiving. After the debate, Joe Biden himself fired back: “I’ve worked my whole life to overcome a stutter. And it’s my great honor to mentor kids who have experienced the same. It’s called empathy. Look it up.”

Sometime after this, Sarah Huckabee Sanders deleted her tweet. She then posted this response to Biden: “I actually didn’t know that about you and that is commendable. I apologize and should have made my point respectfully.” That’s well and nice, but we’re pretty sure she’s lying as usual. Are we really supposed to believe that her “I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I hhhave” was somehow not in reference to his stutter?

Media / Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Smartphones Are Spies. Here’s Whom They Report To, Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel, Dec. 20, 2019 (print ed.). Your smartphone is probably sending your precise location to companies right now. Their job is to turn your shopping trip or doctor’s visit into “Big Data” — another term for corporate intelligence. So far, the companies and individuals profiting from your everyday movements have mostly evaded scrutiny.

As Times Opinion continues reporting on a giant trove of mobile phone location data, the companies and people profiting from the privacy invasion are coming into focus.

So who, exactly, is watching, and why — and where is all that information going? Google Maps is possibly the most popular location-google logo custombased app in the world, with over one billion users active each month, most of whom are most likely enabling location tracking. Large tech companies like Google and Facebook are more likely to keep the invasive data they collect to themselves for their own internal use, repurposing it to improve their products, for marketing and other analyses.

But many other location data companies aren’t household names. Smaller players mostly operate behind the scenes on many of your favorite apps, using software designed to quietly collect location data from your phone’s sensors after you consent (more about that in a minute). Many have labyrinthian privacy policies vaguely explaining their permissions but they use technical and nuanced language that may be confusing to average smartphone users.

By design, it’s often nearly impossible to know which companies receive your location information or what they do with it. Some are startups with only a few dozen employees and modest funding. Others are established players with significant investment.

Because the collection of location data is largely unregulated, these companies can legally get access to phone location sensors and then buy and resell the information they gather in perpetuity. Not all companies do that, but some do. The business opportunities are vast. And investors have noticed. Many advertising executives have independently described the location data industry to us as “the Wild West.”

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Kentucky’s ex-governor pardoned a child rapist because the 9-year-old victim’s hymen was intact, Antonia Noori Farzan, Dec. 20, 2019. When the Louisville Courier-Journal revealed earlier this month that former Kentucky governor Matt Bevin (R) had pardoned a slew of violent criminals during his final weeks in office, he cited his belief in second chances.

matt bevinBut on Thursday, Bevin offered a different explanation for one particularly controversial pardon: He said he didn’t believe that a 9-year-old girl was raped, because her hymen was intact.

“There was zero evidence,” Bevin told talk-radio host Terry Meiners of WHAS.

Already under fire for handing out pardons to relatives of his supporters, Bevin is now facing an onslaught of criticism from medical and forensic experts. Scientists have debunked the notion that inspecting an alleged victim’s hymen can prove whether they were sexually assaulted, and found that most survivors of child sexual abuse do not have any physical damage. George Nichols, an expert in evaluating child abuse who also served as Kentucky’s chief medical examiner for 20 years, told the Courier-Journal on Thursday that Bevin “clearly doesn’t know medicine and anatomy.”

Dec. 19

Impeachment Headlines djt handwave file

 

Impeachment News Noted Above 

nancy pelosi impeachment dec 18 2019 screenshot

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) helps open the impeachment debate on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019.

ny times logoNew York Times, TRUMP IMPEACHED: ABUSE OF POWER AND OBSTRUCTION, Nicholas Fandos and Michael D. Shear, Dec. 19, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump is the third president in history to be charged with committing high crimes and misdemeanors and face removal by the Senate.

djt impeached nytimes front page Custom 2On a day of constitutional consequence and raging partisan tension, the votes on the two articles of impeachment fell largely along party lines.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday impeached President Trump for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power, making him the third president in history to be charged with committing high crimes and misdemeanors and face removal by the Senate.

On a day of constitutional consequence and raging partisan tension, the votes on the two articles of impeachment fell largely along party lines, after a bitter debate that reflected the deep polarization gripping American politics in the Trump era.

All but two Democrats supported the article on abuse of power, which accused Mr. Trump of corruptly using the levers of government to solicit election assistance from Ukraine in the form of investigations to discredit his Democratic political rivals. Republicans were united in opposition. It passed 230 to 197, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi gaveling the vote to a close from the House rostrum.

On the second charge, obstruction of Congress, a third Democrat joined Republicans in opposition. The vote was 229 to 198.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Spotlight now shifts to Senate: McConnell says Senate must act to ‘keep partisan passions from literally boiling over,’ John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez and Elise Viebeck​, Dec. 19, 2019. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, sharply criticized the Democrat-led impeachment process in the House during remarks on his chamber’s floor.

mitch mcConnell o portraitThe day after President Trump was impeached by the House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, questions continued to swirl about the timing and scope of an anticipated Senate trial regarding his conduct toward Ukraine.

House leaders suggested a possible delay until they can get a guarantee of a fair trial in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, in a floor speech, sharply criticized the House process as rushed and unfair and suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is “too afraid” to transmit “their shoddy work product.”

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Why doesn’t McConnell want witnesses at Trump’s trial? Because he’s guilty, Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman
  • Washington Post, Trump wallows in hate, befuddles his fans, Jennifer Rubin

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump cries like a baby after realizing Nancy Pelosi still holds all the cards on his impeachment, Bill Palmer, Dec. 19, 2019. Last night, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi didn’t just formally impeach Donald Trump. She revealed that she won’t make a decision when or if to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate until she can assess whether Mitch McConnell is willing to hold a fair trial.

bill palmer report logo headerIt was a brilliant masterstroke, even if most of us did see it coming. Trump, for his part, apparently did not see it coming – and now he’s crying like a baby.

Donald Trump and his social media handlers have frantically filled his Twitter page with so many dozens of garbage retweets today, it can be difficult to dig back and find the handful of tweets that came from Trump’s own mouth. Trump initially tried pushing the laugh-donald trump twitterout-loud notion that the Senate trial would simply take place without any House representation: “If the Do Nothing Democrats decide, in their great wisdom, not to show up, they would lose by Default!” But nothing works that way, and so Trump moved on to simply whining.

Trump posted this tweet: “I got Impeached last night without one Republican vote being cast with the Do Nothing Dems on their continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in American history. Now the Do Nothing Party want to Do Nothing with the Articles & not deliver them to the Senate, but it’s Senate’s call!” Then he screamed “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT” like a stooge.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: To avoid removal, Trump only needs senators representing 7 percent of the country to support him, Philip Bump​, Dec. 19, 2019. The House vote, however, largely mirrored what Americans in those districts would have wanted.

• Analysis: Which senators support impeaching Trump

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-officials say they feared Putin influenced Trump’s views on Ukraine and 2016, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig, Dec. 19, 2019. Ex-officials say they feared Putin influenced Trump’s views on Ukraine and 2016. Almost from the moment he took office, President Trump seized on a theory that troubled his senior aides: Ukraine, he told them on many occasions, had tried to stop him from winning the White House.

After meeting privately in July 2017 with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Trump grew more insistent that Ukraine worked to defeat him, according to multiple former officials familiar with his assertions.

The president’s intense resistance to the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia systematically interfered in the 2016 campaign — and the blame he cast instead on a rival country — led many of his advisers to think that Putin himself helped spur the idea of Ukraine’s culpability, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here is how each House member voted, Staff report, Dec. 19, 2019 (print ed.). The House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday evening, charging Mr. Trump with abuse of U.S. House logopower and obstruction of Congress. The Times tracked the vote live, showing how every representative voted. Four House seats are vacant, and three additional members are not expected to vote, which would make 215 the threshold to pass each article.

  • New York Times, 3 Democrats Cross Party Lines in Votes. Two members broke rank with their party on one charge. A third joined them for the second. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii voted “present” on both.
  • New York Times, Analysis: House Democrats Are Betting Their Votes Are Worth It, Backing impeachment is a politically risky step for many Democrats.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Uses Rally to Strike Back Against Impeachment, Annie Karni, Maggie Haberman, Michael Crowley and Noah Weiland, Dec. 19, 2019 (print ed.). The president traveled to Michigan, a vital electoral state, to deliver his response after he became the third president to be impeached by the House.

A defiant President Trump (shown in a file photo) sought to grab back the spotlight in front of an arena full of supporters in Battle Creek, Mich., on Wednesday night, after spending the day holed up in the White House as the House of Representatives prepared to cast votes on two articles of impeachment against him.

djt maga hat“It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached,” Mr. Trump said in his first public remarks ahead of the historic vote on his impeachment. “The country is doing better than ever before. We did nothing wrong. We have tremendous support in the Republican Party like we’ve never had before.”

“Remember when I first started this beautiful trip, this beautiful journey, I just said to the first lady, you’re so lucky I took you on this journey,” the president said, recalling his 2016 campaign.

His roaring rejoinder created the remarkable image of a combative president — just moments before becoming the third to be impeached — standing unbowed before his core base of supporters heading into a year in which he will be seeking re-election.

Mr. Trump, described by his aides as having been in a frustrated, snappish mood for days, traveled to the rally in an electorally vital state on a day on which he had watched the impeachment debate on television and tweeted or retweeted more than 50 times.

washington post logoWashington Post, After Trump suggests John Dingell is in hell, Rep. Debbie Dingell says: ‘My family’s still hurting,’ Josh Dawsey, Meagan Flynn and Alex Horton, Dec. 19, 2019. Maybe he's looking up': Trump implies the late Rep. John Dingell might be in hell.

Less than an hour after being impeached, President Trump suggested during a john dingell headshotcampaign rally that the late Michigan congressman John Dingell, right, might be “looking up” from hell — remarks that Dingell’s widow said “really hurt.'

“Mr. President, let’s set politics aside,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), whose husband, a World War II veteran and the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history, died in February at the age of 92. “My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.”

Dingell appeared Thursday morning on CNN, and host Alisyn Camerota queued a clip of Trump’s incendiary remarks with Dingell on a split screen. Her face remained stoic through Trump mimicking her voice in a phone call he made to Dingell after her husband died.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Now Donald Trump can’t be pardoned, Robert Harrington, Dec. 19, 2019. When Donald Trump awoke on Wednesday morning it was still possible for him to resign and be pardoned. It may have even been possible (some have argued) for him to lose the 2020 election and pardon himself before leaving office. Those days are over. Come what may, it is no longer possible for Donald John Trump to receive a pardon for any crimes he committed while president of the United States.

bill palmer report logo headerHow do I know this? Because the Constitution of the United States says so. Article II, section 2 of the Constitution says “The President … shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment” [italics added]. In other words, because Trump is, after Andrew Johnson and William Jefferson Clinton, the third president to be impeached, he is now and for all time ineligible for presidential pardon.

Come what may, a pardon for Trump is now off the table and for all time. But this call for easier rest comes with a caveat. Trump is now doubly dangerous. His safe exits out of the Oval Office are now blocked.

ny times logoNew York Times, Durham Is Scrutinizing Ex-C.I.A. Director’s Role in Russian Interference Findings, Katie Benner and Julian E. john brennan croppedBarnes, Dec. 19, 2019. The federal prosecutor investigating the origins of the Russia inquiry is examining testimony by the former C.I.A. director John Brennan, right, and seeking his communications records.

The federal prosecutor scrutinizing the Russia investigation has begun examining the role of the former C.I.A. director John O. Brennan in how the intelligence community assessed Russia’s 2016 election interference, according to three people briefed on the inquiry.

john durham CustomJohn H. Durham, the United States attorney leading the investigation, has requested Mr. Brennan’s emails, call logs and other documents from the C.I.A., according to a person briefed on his inquiry. He wants to learn what Mr. Brennan told other officials, including the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, about his and the C.I.A.’s views of a notorious dossier of assertions about Russia and Trump associates.

Mr. Durham’s pursuit of Mr. Brennan’s records is certain to add to accusations that Mr. Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies. The president has long attacked Mr. Brennan as part of his narrative about a so-called deep state cabal of Obama administration officials who tried to sabotage his campaign, and Mr. Trump has held out Mr. Durham’s investigation as a potential avenue for proving those claims.

Mr. Durham is also examining whether Mr. Brennan privately contradicted his public comments, including May 2017 testimony to Congress, about both the dossier and about any debate among the intelligence agencies over their conclusions on Russia’s interference, the people said.

The people familiar with Mr. Durham’s inquiry stressed that it was continuing and it was not clear what crimes, if any, he had uncovered. Representatives for Mr. Brennan and the Justice Department declined to comment.

Defenders of Mr. Brennan have long maintained he did nothing wrong and properly sounded the alarm on Russian interference in the 2016 election, and he told MSNBC this fall that he would answer Mr. Durham’s questions if asked.

CIA Logo“I feel good about what it is we did as an intelligence community, and I feel very confident and comfortable with what I did, so I have no qualms whatsoever about talking with investigators who are going to be looking at this in a fair and appropriate manner,” Mr. Brennan said.

Mr. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, has previously conducted politically fraught investigations, including allegations of wrongdoing in the C.I.A.’s detainee torture program. Attorney General William P. Barr appointed him this year to re-examine not only the origins of the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation but more broadly how the government uncovered Moscow’s election interference and dealt with those findings.

“He is not just looking at the F.B.I.,” Mr. Barr said in an interview broadcast Thursday evening on Fox News. “He is looking at other agencies.”

Calling it a “much broader investigation,” Mr. Barr added, “He is looking at all the conduct — both before and after the election.”

Mr. Brennan has come into Mr. Durham’s sights as he has focused on the intelligence community assessment released in January 2017 that used information from the F.B.I., the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency to detail Russia’s meddling. They concluded that President Vladimir V. Putin ordered an influence campaign that “aspired to help” Mr. Trump’s chances by damaging his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: A President Impeached, and a Nation Convulsed, Peter Baker, right, Dec. 18, 2019. The impeachment battles peter baker twitterover Andrew Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton came at turning points in the American story. The time that produced President Trump has proved to be another one. For the most unpredictable of presidents, it was the most predictable of outcomes. Is anyone really surprised that President Trump was impeached? His defiant disregard for red lines arguably made him an impeachment waiting to happen.

From the day he took office, Mr. Trump made clear that he would not abide by the conventions of the system he inherited. So perhaps it was inevitable that at some point he would go too far for the opposition party, leading to a historic day of debate on the House floor where he was alternately depicted as a constitutional villain or victim.

The proximate charge as Democrats impeached him for high crimes and misdemeanors on party-line votes Wednesday night was the president’s campaign to pressure Ukraine to help him against his domestic political rivals while withholding security aid. But long before Ukraine consumed the capital, Mr. Trump had sought to bend the instruments of government to his own purposes even if it meant pushing boundaries that had been sacrosanct for a generation.

Over nearly three years in office, he has become the most polarizing figure in a country stewing in toxic politics. He has punished enemies and, many argue, undermined democratic institutions. Disregarding advice that restrained other presidents, Mr. Trump kept his real estate business despite the Constitution’s emoluments clause, paid hush money to an alleged paramour and sought to impede investigations that threatened him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: House Democrats Are Betting Their Votes Are Worth It, Carl Hulse, Dec. 19, 2019 (print ed.).  Backing impeachment is a politically risky step for many Democrats.

ny times logotulsi gabbardNew York Times, Tulsi Gabbard Votes ‘Present’ on Trump Impeachment Articles, Michael Levenson, Dec. 19, 2019 (print ed.). Representative Tulsi Gabbard, right, a Hawaii Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate, broke with most members of her party on Wednesday and voted “present” on the two articles of impeachment charging President Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Earlier this week, Ms. Gabbard called for Mr. Trump’s censure, according to ABC News.

CBS Late Show with Stephen Colbert,

, Dec. 20, 2019. He's back cbs logofrom his top-secret fact finding mission to Ukraine, and boy does Rudy Giuliani have some stories to tell. Starring the incredible John Lithgow as presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Inside DC Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.

Trump Counsel Rudolph Giuliani, left, with businessman Lev Parnas last month at the Trump International Hotel shortly before the arrest of Parnas and his colleagueg Ignor Fruman while boarding a flight to Vienna from Dulles International Airport.

ny times logoNew York Times, The 2 Soviet Émigrés Who Fueled the Trump Impeachment Flames, Michael Rothfeld, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Kenneth P. Vogel and Andrew E. Kramer, Dec. 19, 2019. “Lev and Igor” were obscure businessmen who became fixtures of the Republican donor set. Then they played an unlikely role in the proceedings gripping the nation.

Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman helped Mr. Giuliani carry out a shadow diplomacy campaign, sweeping them into a chain of events that has led to the impeachment of a president for only the third time in American history. As the impeachment began moving on Wednesday from the House to the Senate, the story of their work together was a reminder that the case against Mr. Trump is more than just a political battle in Washington. It is about the allure of presidential power, and the people who drew near to it as they sought political influence or financial gain.

The goal of the campaign, according to witnesses in the impeachment hearings and a reconstructed transcript of a call between Mr. Trump and the Ukrainian president, was for Ukraine to pursue two investigations that could benefit Mr. Trump politically. One dealt with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter; the other centered on claims that Ukrainians meddled in the 2016 election, including a debunked theory that Ukraine — and not Russia — stole Democratic emails.

Trump Supreme Court Cases

supreme court headshots 2019

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Supreme Court’s Final Exam, Linda Greenhouse right (shown on the cover of her memoir, Just a Journalist), Dec. 19, 2019. How the justices rule on three cases involving Trump’s financial records will tell us all we need to know linda greenhouse cover just a journalistabout the court.

When the first two of President Trump’s appeals seeking to shield his financial records from disclosure reached the Supreme Court last month, I predicted that the justices would take their institutional interests into account and turn the cases down.

I was wrong.

And on reflection, now that the court has agreed to hear those two appeals plus a third, I’m glad I was wrong. Here’s why: The eventual decisions, to come in the months after the as-yet unscheduled arguments in late March or early April, will give the country much-needed clarity about the Supreme Court. With the court in the full glare of an election-year spotlight, we will learn beyond any doubt what kind of Supreme Court we have — and whether its evolution into partnership with a president who acts as if he owns it is now complete.

Those of us who have been warning about this evolution are well aware that it’s a contested claim, subject to ready dismissal as overstatement or ideologically driven fearmongering. So I want to make the case here that for the justices to do anything other than affirm the three decisions at issue by two Courts of Appeals would be to vindicate both the warnings and the president’s disturbing assumption.

deutsche bank logoIn none of the three cases now before the court would the president, if he lost, have to lift a finger. He is a plaintiff, not a defendant. In his capacity as a private citizen, he brought the three lawsuits to quash subpoenas issued by three House of Representative committees and the Manhattan district attorney, not to him but to two banks and an accounting firm, for his personal and corporate financial records.

In fact, in one of the two New York cases, Trump v. Deutsche Bank, Judge Jon O. Newman of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, noting that the complaint filed by the president’s lawyers stated that “President Trump brings this suit solely in his capacity as a private citizen,” referred throughout his 106-page opinion to the “Lead Plaintiff” rather than President Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, With little protest, GOP succumbs to President Trump on spending, Robert Costa, Dec. 19, 2019. Republicans, who once led dramatic fiscal standoffs with Democrats, have acquiesced on a Trump-approved $1.4 trillion funding deal that will push deficits to record levels.

Before adjourning for the year on Thursday, the GOP-controlled Senate is slated to approve a $1.4 trillion funding deal embraced by President Trump that will push deficits to record levels — with hardly a peep from many Republicans who have shut down the government over spending in the past.

“It’s depressing, isn’t it?” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), one of a handful of GOP senators who plans to oppose the deal. “There are a lot of Republican colleagues who like to spend money.”

When a reporter suggested that Trump is one of those Republicans, Johnson flashed a pained smile and said, “Precisely.”

The mammoth spending deal provides another stark indication of the Republican Party’s near-total capitulation to Trump, who pays little mind to the goals of fiscal austerity that animated the GOP establishment and its tea party wing during years of dramatic fiscal standoffs with President Barack Obama.

2020 U.S. Elections

washington post logojoe biden oWashington Post, Biden defends Afghanistan stance amid talk of foreign wars, Staff report, Dec. 19, 2019. This sixth debate is the smallest one yet for the Democratic presidential field. Follow along for the latest updates and analysis.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial, Trump Has Been Impeached. Republicans Are Following Him Down, Editorial Board, Dec. 19, 2019.
Vote these people out to protect American democracy.

ny times logoNew York Times, What’s Different About Tonight’s Democratic Debate, Shane Goldmacher and Adriana Ramic, Dec. 19, 2019. The field of seven Democrats is whiter and smaller — it will be most intimate affair of the 2020 primary.

washington post logoWashington Post, What to know about tonight’s Democratic debate, Staff report, Dec. 19, 2019. Which candidates will be on the stage? What are their stances on key issues? What has happened in previous debates?

Seven candidates have qualified for the stage, set to be the smallest debate yet. To qualify, candidates had to bring in donations from at least 200,000 individuals and hit at least 4 percent in four polls or 6 percent in two early-state polls.

Many Democrats in the race are embracing more left-wing positions, with a debate over the future of health care — Medicare-for-all vs. a public option — one key division in the field. Many candidates have provided responses to detailed questionnaires about their stances on health care, the economy, foreign policy, education and more. The Washington Post has compiled those details on these key issues:

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Republican senators run the risk of being shamed by Trump himself, George T. Conway III, Dec. 19, 2019.

Roll Call, North Carolina’s Mark Meadows won’t run for reelection, Lindsey McPherson, Dec. 19, 2019. Former Freedom Caucus chairman signals he may go work for Trump. mark meadows SmallNorth Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies and most vocal defenders on Capitol Hill, is not running for reelection in 2020.

In an exclusive interview with CQ Roll Call, Meadows, right, said he knows the timing of his retirement announcement — just after House Democrats voted to impeach Trump — will be spun a thousand different ways but that he’s been mulling this decision a long time.

Meadows is still planning to defend the president against the impeachment charges as the process moves to the Senate for trial. The former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus acknowledges that his role as one of Trump’s chief defenders has encroached on his ability to serve his district and was a factor in his decision.

Meadows, who was first elected to North Carolina’s 11th District in 2012, had actually been considering retiring last cycle. When he decided to run for a fourth term in 2018, he had a strong inclination it would be his last race.

“I’m going to be working closer with the president, not less so,” Meadows said. “Without getting into any specifics, I’ve had ongoing conversations with the president about helping with his team in a closer environment. And I felt like it would be disingenuous to file and then resign at some point in the future and leave my district searching for a nominee.”

Meadows is the third member of the North Carolina delegation to announce he won’t run in 2020. Both GOP Reps. Mark Walker and George Holding are retiring because redistricting as a result of a gerrymandering lawsuit left their districts more favorable to Democrats.

Meadows’ decision isn’t about the recent redistricting in the state, although his district is becoming slightly less Republican under the new lines the General Assembly enacted earlier this fall in response to a state court order.

The Grayzone via Consortium News, Investigative Commentary: National Security Mandarins Groomed Pete Buttigieg & Managed His Future, max blumenthal screenshot rt americaMax Blumenthal, right, Dec. 19, 2019. An influential D.C. network of military interventionists placed Mayor Pete on an inside track to power. In his quest for front-runner status in the 2020 presidential campaign, Pete Buttigieg, below left, has crafted an image for himself as a maverick running against a broken establishment.

On the trail, he has invoked his distinction as the openly gay mayor of a de-industrialized Rust Belt town, as well as his experience as a Naval reserve intelligence officer who now claims to oppose “endless wars”. He insists that “there’s energy for an outsider like me,” promoting himself as “an unconventional candidate.”

pete buttigieg mayor south bend inWhen former Secretary of State John Kerry endorsed Joe Biden this December, Buttigieg went full maverick. “I have never been part of the Washington establishment,” he proclaimed, “and I recognize that there are relationships among senators who have been together on Capitol Hill as long as I’ve been alive and that is what it is.”

But a testy exchange between the South Bend mayor and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard during a Nov. 20 Democratic primary debate had already complicated Buttigieg’s branding campaign.

After ticking off her foreign policy credentials, Gabbard turned to Buttigieg and lit into him for stating his willingness to send U.S. troops to Mexico to crack down on drug cartels.

Throughout the exchange, Buttigieg appeared shaken, as though his sense of inviolability had been punctured. Gabbard had clearly struck a vulnerable point by painting the self-styled outsider as a conventional D.C.-style politician unconsciously spouting interventionist bromides.

The remarkable dust-up highlighted a side of the 37-year-old political upstart that has been scarcely explored in mainstream U.S. media accounts of his rise to prominence. It revealed the real Buttigieg as a neoliberal cadre whose future was carefully managed by the mandarins of the national security state since almost the moment that he graduated from Harvard University.

After college, the Democratic presidential hopeful took a gig with a strategic communications firm founded by a former secretary of defense who raked in contracts with the arms industry. He moved on to a fellowship at an influential D.C. think tank described by its founder as “a counterpart to the neoconservatives of the 1970s.” Today, Buttigieg sits on that think tank’s board of advisors alongside some of the country’s most accomplished military interventionists.

Buttigieg has reaped the rewards of his dedication to the Beltway playbook. He recently became the top recipient of donations from staff members of the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the Justice Department – key cogs in the national security state’s permanent bureaucracy.

max blumenthal screenshot rt americaOn the presidential campaign trail, “Mayor Pete” has done his best to paper over the instincts he inherited from his benefactors among the national security state. But as the campaign drags on, his interventionist tendencies are increasingly exposed. Having padded his resume in America’s longest and most futile wars, he may be poised to extend them for a new generation to fight.

Max Blumenthal, right, is an award-winning journalist and the author of books including best-selling “Republican Gomorrah,” “Goliath,” “The Fifty One Day War” and “The Management of Savagery.” He has also produced numerous print articles for an array of publications, many video reports and several documentaries including “Killing Gaza” and “Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie.” Blumenthal founded The Grayzone in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.

World News

washington post logounited kingdom flagWashington Post, After Queen’s Speech, newly empowered Boris Johnson boasts his ‘radical’ agenda will ‘transform’ U.K., William Booth and Karla Adam, Dec. 19, 2019. Still unanswered is how the prime minister will govern, and which vision of the future will he chase after Britain leaves the European Union next month.

washington post logoWashington Post, House passes reworked North American trade deal in victory for Trump, Democrats, Erica Werner, Dec. 19, 2019. The White House last year reached an agreement with Canada and Mexico to change NAFTA, but House Democrats forced President Trump to make revisions. The Senate plans to pass the legislation next year.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Department investigates Sci-Hub founder on suspicion of working for Russian intelligence, Shane Harris and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 19, 2019. Alexandria Elbakyan​, a computer programmer described by supporters as a “Robin Hood of science,” created a website that provides free access to academic papers. The investigation has criminal and intelligence-gathering elements, according to people familiar with the matter.

New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center (Photo by Jim Henderson via Wikimedia Commons)

New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center (Photo by Jim Henderson via Wikimedia Commons)

New York Daily News, Surveillance footage outside of Jeffrey Epstein’s cell during suicide attempt is missing, Stephen Rex Brown, jeffrey epstein at harvard universityDec. 18, 2019. Surveillance footage of the outside of Jeffrey Epstein’s cell at the troubled Metropolitan Correctional Center during his suicide attempt has gone missing, prosecutors revealed Wednesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Swergold admitted nobody can find the footage of the outside of the cell the multimillionaire perv shared with accused quadruple murderer Nick Tartaglione during a hearing in White Plains District Court. Tartaglione, a former Briarcliff Manor cop, faces the death penalty for the alleged murders in a drug deal gone bad.

Bruce Barket, an attorney for Tartaglione (shown in a Facebook photo), confirmed the stunning revelation that the footage was not preserved. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office declined comment.

nicholas tartaglione facebook CustomTartaglione’s attorneys filed a request for the footage to be retained two days after Epstein’s unsuccessful suicide attempt on July 23, Barket said.

“It is on the surface troubling,” Barket said. “I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve found out more details.”

Judge Kenneth Karas asked the government to look further into what happened to the footage.

The Daily News previously reported that Tartaglione claimed to have saved Epstein’s life after the pedophile perv tried to hang himself. Epstein reportedly claimed that Tartaglione attacked him.

“Nick acted appropriately and admirably,” Barket said.

The video footage was relevant to Tartaglione’s defense because it is potentially evidence of the ex-cop’s good character. In the event Tartaglione is found guilty and reaches the death penalty phase, the Epstein incident could possibly be evidence showing why he doesn’t deserve to die.

Epstein successfully hanged himself in a different cell two weeks later while awaiting trial for sex trafficking of underage girls. His body was discovered on Aug. 10. Two correctional officers have been charged with neglecting their duties and falsifying records the night of Epstein’s death.

Law & Crime,Deeply Entangled in a Criminal Conspiracy’: NYC Lawmakers Seek to Sever City’s Ties to Trump Org, Jerry Lambe, Dec. 19, 2019. Following President Donald Trump officially changing his residence from Manhattan to Palm Beach, Fla., several members of the New York City Council have introduced a resolution seeking to end the president’s business ties with the city’s municipal parks.

Democratic City Councilman Mark Levine on Thursday was expected to introduce a non-binding resolution calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to sever the Trump Organizations four contracts with the city, three of which are up for renewal in 2021, according to the New York Daily News. The resolution was co-sponsored by Councilwomen Margaret Chin and Carlina Rivera.

The president’s son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization Eric Trump responded in the story that it was “unfortunate” Levine was making the contractual issue into a political issue.

“For over 20 years, The Trump Organization has been a partner of New York City and has saved many iconic assets, such as Wollman Rink and Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, which were deeply distressed and in sad financial ruin. Under our leadership, those assets have become the pride and joy of our great city,” he said in a statement. “We are honored to be partnered with the city, and we will continue to do an outstanding job. We look forward to making New York proud for many years to come.”

Levine shot back on Twitter.

“Sorry @EricTrump, the feeling’s not mutual. Your dad’s businesses in our city’s parks are underperforming financially and damaging the image of our public spaces,” Levine said. “And if you’re so proud of them, why did you remove the Trump name from both ice rinks??”

“The Trump organization currently operates two ice skating rinks and a carousel in the city’s famed Central Park, as well as the Trump Golf Links located in the Bronx,” he added.

Trump’s name was removed from the ice skating rinks, which the organization has run for decades, earlier this year as part of a rebranding effort.

“The Trump organization notified us in late August that they planned to change the on-rink branding,” Parks Department spokesperson Crystal Howard, said in an October email to the Washington Post, adding that the city did not ask for the change.

Levine did not stop there.

“The guy who was just impeached still has lucrative contracts w/ NYC to run 4 businesses in our public parks. This is a violation of the emoluments clause, is a bad deal for us financially, and damages the image of our parks. Cancel. These. Contracts. Now,” he said.

Levine’s resolution states that the city’s contracts with the president’s personal business is a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution and refers to Trump’s misuse of his New York-based charity, which recently resulted in the president admitting to wrongdoing and paying a $2 million settlement to eight charities.

“It’s just a matter of profound offense to most New Yorkers that our city has given four lucrative Parks [Department] concessions to the Trump Organization,” Levine said. “The Trump Organization is a company that is deeply entangled in a criminal conspiracy and there is ample precedent for Parks concession contracts being cancelled on such grounds.”

Legal Schnauzer, Commentary: Second batch of Mueller memos from BuzzFeed News focuses heavily on Michael Cohen, Hope Hicks and infamous meeting at Trump Tower with Russian, Roger Shuler, Dec. 19, 2019. Now that Donald Trump has been impeached on two Ukraine-related articles, it's likely many Americans have lost track of the really important scandal, the one involving Russia and the Mueller Report. The latest on that topic came recently with the release of a second batch of investigative memos -- called 302s -- from a BuzzFeed News request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The first release of memos came on Nov. 2 and had an Alabama flavor, showing that former U.S. Sen. and ex-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Donald Trump were part of a conspiracy to obtain stolen Democratic emails.

BuzzFeed News released the second batch of memos on Dec. 2, and a federal judge has ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to release 500 pages of memos each month, with that process likely playing out for roughly eight years. Senior investigative reporter Jason Leopold, who has led the FOIA action for BuzzFeed, says the releases could go well beyond 302s.

Writes Leopold:

The 302s are just the beginning. BuzzFeed News is pursuing five separate lawsuits to pry loose all the subpoenas and search warrants that Mueller’s team executed, as well as all emails, memos, letters, talking points, legal opinions, and financial records it generated. In short, we asked for all communications of any kind that passed through the special counsel’s office. We also requested all the documents that would reveal the discussions among Attorney General Bill Barr, former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, and other high-ranking officials about whether to charge Trump with obstruction.

What is in the second batch of memos? Here is a summary from BuzzFeed:

On [Dec. 2], in response to a court order, the Justice Department released the second installment: summaries of FBI interviews spanning hundreds of pages. These summaries, known as “302 reports,” are some of the most important and highly sought-after documents from Mueller’s investigation. They contain numerous redactions, which BuzzFeed News will challenge in our ongoing lawsuit.

john kelly o dhsThe interview summaries released [Dec. 2] include Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen, former White House chief of staff John Kelly, right, former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former communications director Hope Hicks, deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, former political aide Omarosa Manigault, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Here are highlights from key sections of the December release:

michael cohen abc 2018 12 14Michael Cohen, left, said Trump family lawyers kept him from telling the truth. Cohen told FBI agents about negotiations to build a gleaming Trump Tower in the heart of Moscow, about how much Trump, who was then in the midst of a presidential campaign, knew about the negotiations, and about the false statement that Cohen later made to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about it all.

Cohen said that during the presidential campaign, he informed Trump that he had a discussion with a “woman from the Kremlin” about the plan to build the tower, according to a Nov. 20, 2018, summary of his interview with FBI agents and prosecutors from Mueller's team.

“Cohen told Trump he spoke with a woman from the Kremlin who had asked specific and great questions about Trump Tower Moscow, and that he wished Trump Organization had assistants that were that good and competent,” the FBI summary says.

He also said that in his letter to Congress about the development, he initially wrote that he had “limited contact with Russian officials.” But that line was struck from the letter. Cohen said he did not know who specifically struck it.

robert hyde djt Custom

Hartford Courant, Conn. candidate who deleted sexist tweet about Kamala Harris owes child support but gives big to Trump and GOP, Daniela Altimari, Dec. 19, 2019. Robert F. Hyde (above left), the Republican candidate for Congress whose sexually suggestive tweet about Kamala Harris drew widespread condemnation from leaders of both political parties, owes the mother of his 13-year-old son more than $2,000 in child support, according to court records, even as he has continued to make donations to President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee.

Jennyfer Morin of Torrington said she was compelled to come forward because Hyde is seeking public support for his campaign to represent Connecticut’s 5th District. “I’m shocked that people are planning to vote for this man,” she said in an interview.

rnc logoCourt filings shared by Morin and reviewed by the Hartford Courant state that Hyde has donated more than $56,000 to political campaigns since October 2016. Most of those contributions went to the Republican National Committee, according to electronic filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Hyde also donated at least $2,000 to President Donald Trump’s reelection fund and at least $750 to the Connecticut Republican Party, according to the FEC. On Wednesday, the state party announced it was returning Hyde’s contributions, citing his “vile comments on Twitter.”

On Dec. 3, Hyde posted a crude and sexist tweet about Harris’ decision to drop out of the 2020 Democratic presidential race. The tweet [saying in part that a candidate was "going down" before unprintable language] was removed earlier this week after several prominent Republicans and Democrats criticized Hyde and urged him to drop his bid.

Hyde, the owner of a landscaping company in Simsbury, could not be reached for comment. A phone number previously associated with his campaign appears to be disconnected and he has blocked reporters on Twitter, making it impossible to send him a direct message. A West Hartford law firm that Hyde had retained prior to 2017 did not return a request for comment and Hyde was not represented by a lawyer in later proceedings, according to court filings.

Morin said she was struck by the difference between Hyde’s public persona as a political figure and his abdication of personal responsibility regarding his teenage son.

“He can’t even afford $100 a week in child support but he’s golfing with Trump,” Morin said. She produced a photo from Hyde’s Facebook page showing him beaming as he stood next to Eric Trump at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey. The same photo was posted to Hyde’s campaign Instagram page.

The court case between Morin and Hyde has been going on for years, she said. “We’re going back and forth and he’s stating he’s unemployed and can’t afford child support,” she said.

Hyde broke off their relationship in 2006, after he learned Morin was pregnant, she said. Since then Hyde has had sporadic contact with his son, and “there have been years during which there was no contact at all,” according to an April 2018 ruling issued by Judge Kari A. Dooley.

Morin, who drives a school bus for a living and earns less than $400 per week, sought additional child support and the court agreed, ordering Hyde to pay $300 per week as of Jan. 1, 2018. Hyde was also ordered to pay $4,000 in Morin’s attorney fees. The court rejected Hyde’s request for custody, granting him visitation rights only at the discretion of Morin.

In the court filings, Hyde said he could not afford to pay the court-ordered $300 a week in child support.

On Nov. 4, the family support magistrate in Torrington issued a temporary order for Hyde allowing him to pay $94 per week in child support, as well as weekly assessment of $14 to make up the $2,500 he owes Morin. The case was continued until Jan. 13.

Meanwhile, Hyde tweeted a defiant message earlier this week criticizing the “libs (and) RINOs” calling for him to abandon his campaign, suggesting he’s in the race to stay.

Wall Street On Parade, Commentary: JPMorgan and Goldman, Under Criminal Probes, Close in the Red Despite Trading their Own Bank Stocks in their Own Dark Pools, Pam Martens and Russ Martens, Dec. 20, 2019. Stocks have been setting new highs all week as the New York Fed funnels tens of billions of dollars each day to Wall Street’s trading houses to quench a “liquidity” crisis whose existence has seemed to escape stock trading desks on Wall Street.

The stock markets’ week of new highs comes at a curious time. For only the third time in history, a sitting U.S. President was impeached this past week by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Democratic candidates for President wasted no time in last night’s debate drilling down to why this happened. The words “corrupt” and “corruption” were used repeatedly by candidates to describe the state of affairs in Washington. But not one candidate mentioned Wall Street – the epicenter and financier and primary beneficiary of that corruption.

Just how deep that nexus between corruption on Wall Street and corruption in Washington runs was on display yesterday as the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Department of Justice is prepared to settle its criminal investigation of Goldman Sachs in exchange for a fine of approximately $2 billion from one of its subsidiaries. The criminal investigation stems from the Wall Street behemoth twiddling its thumbs as $4.5 billion it had raised in bond sales was looted from its client, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund known as 1MDB. The looted funds were alleged to have been used to bribe foreign officials to obtain bond business for Goldman Sachs, pay kickbacks to employees of Goldman Sachs involved in the scheme, as well as to buy yachts, artwork and fund the production of Hollywood movies, including “The Wolf of Wall Street by outsiders involved in the scheme.

Tom Leissner, a former partner at Goldman Sachs who had worked for the firm for more than two decades, pleaded guilty in the U.S. in 2018 to charges of bribery, conspiracy and money laundering for his role in the 1MDB scandal. Another Goldman employee who was charged, Roger Ng, has pleaded not guilty and his case is currently pending in federal court in New York.

The attorney general of Malaysia has filed a criminal indictment against Goldman Sachs in the matter.

The stock market showed how it has become desensitized to criminal activities on Wall Street: it shaved just 0.22 percent off Goldman’s share price – but did force it to close in the red while the market was setting new highs.

Perhaps trading in sympathy with the Goldman criminal probe was JPMorgan Chase. Its stock also closed in the red yesterday with a loss of 0.50 percent. JPMorgan Chase, which received a combined three felony counts under deferred prosecution agreements during the Obama administration, is currently under a criminal probe over U.S. Department of Justice charges that its traders turned its precious metals desk into a racketeering criminal enterprise over a period of eight years.

Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase closing in the red yesterday might not be so noticeable were it not for the fact that peer banks Citigroup and Morgan Stanley closed in the green on the same day.

The public has no way to know just how deep in the red the mega banks on Wall Street might have closed yesterday or in recent months because the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is, insanely, allowing these banks to trade the shares of their own bank, as well as the shares of their peer banks, in Dark Pools they own and operate. Dark Pools function as lightly-monitored stock exchanges owned by the major banks on Wall Street. (See Wall Street Banks Are Trading in Their Own Company’s Stock: How Is This Legal?)

Media News

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Trump states that his father was from Germany and Germany would've loved Trump, Wayne Madsen, Dec. wayne madsen cafe vaterland18, 2019. Moments after the U.S. House of Representatives passed two article of impeachment on Donald John Trump -- on abuse of office and obstruction of Congress, respectively -- he stunned his audience of true believers at a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan by stating that he would have been loved in Germany.

The statement was even more odd considering that Trump and his father, Fred Trump, Sr., are the two main antagonists in this editor's newest book, Café Vaterland, right, an alternate history that depicts life in America after Germany is victorious in World War II. The Nazis install Fred Trump as the Obergruppenführer over the North-Amerika Reich and he assists his son, Donald, to rise in the ranks of the SS.

Trump's comments in Michigan provide additional evidence that his father continued his far-right activities in the pro-Nazi German-American Bund after his May 1927 arrest while participating in a Ku Klux Klan march in Queens, New York. Café Vaterland suggests that this extended to Fred Trump, Sr. spying for the Nazis before and during World War II.

In an often incoherent speech, Trump stated: "I could be loved in Germany ... I could be loved in Germany ... Oh, they'd love me. My father came from Germany. My dad... parents ... from Germany. In Germany, they'd like me so much."

The book, which was published on November 22, states that it "is an alternate history that has some uncomfortable intersections with our actual reality." Trump's bizarre comments about him and his father making Germany great again have made the nexus between the alternate universe of Café Vaterland and our own uncomfortably closer.

Dec. 18

Court Slams Obamacare Mandate

ny times logoNew York Times, Obamacare Insurance Mandate Is Struck Down by Federal Appeals Court, Abby Goodnough, Dec. 19, 2019 (print ed.). The decision left the fate of the nearly decade-old law in limbo even as health care has become a central issue in the presidential race. Details below.

Impeachment Headlines djt handwave file

 

Impeachment News Noted Above

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: House set to begin historic day of debate, John Wagner, Dec. 18, 2019. Vote to impeach Trump expected, will make him third U.S. president to receive that sanction. Based on public announcements, Democrats have enough djt impeached wapo 12 19 19 front page Customvotes to pass two articles charging President Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The House is poised to begin a historic day of debate that is expected to end with votes to impeach President Trump for his conduct toward Ukraine, making him only the third president in U.S. history to receive that sanction.

Based on public announcements, Democrats have enough votes to approve articles of impeachment against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Wednesday’s action will lead to a trial in the Republican-led Senate, where a two-thirds vote would be required to remove the president from office.

At the heart of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Diatribe Belittles Impeachment as ‘Attempted Coup,’ Michael D. Shear, Dec. 18, 2019 (print ed.). In an irate, six-page letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, President Trump denounced the impeachment inquiry in scathing terms.

nancy pelosi djtPresident Trump on Tuesday angrily denounced the looming House votes to impeach him as a “Star Chamber of partisan persecution” by Democrats, describing the effort to remove him from office as an “attempted coup” that would come back to haunt them at the ballot box next year.

On the eve of the historic votes, Democrats reached a critical threshold, gathering majority support to impeach Mr. Trump, as the president raged against the proceedings. In an irate and rambling six-page letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Mr. Trump portrayed himself as the victim of enemies determined to destroy his presidency with false accusations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker: Breaking down Trump’s extraordinary six-page letter to Pelosi, Glenn Kessler, Dec. 18, 2019.  Reading President Trump’s impeachment-eve letter to the House speaker seemed very familiar to The Fact Checker. It’s like a written version of his campaign rallies, replete with false claims we have fact-checked many times before either in individual fact checks or in our database of false or misleading Trump claims.

This letter will add a couple dozen new entries to our database, but here are some of the lowlights.

Raw Story, Trump cut White House lawyers out of process of drafting unhinged letter to Pelosi: report, Bob Brigham, Dec. 18, 2019. White House lawyers were out of the loop during the drafting of Donald Trump’s widely-panned letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The letter was reportedly drafted by controversial White House advisor Stephen Miller, Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland and counselor to the chief of staff Michael Williams.

“I am told White House lawyers were cut out of the process of drafting the President’s six-page letter to Pelosi. At the direction of the President, the letter was drafted by Eric Ueland, Stephen Miller and Mulvaney aide Michael Williams,” ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl reported Tuesday.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s maniacal meltdown just gave something big away, Ron Leshnower, Dec. 18, 2019. Donald Trump has neither cooperated with the House impeachment inquiry nor cared to contest the mountain of damning evidence of his corruption. What Trump has chosen to do, however, is send a last-minute psychotic letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi imploring her to “immediately cease this impeachment fantasy.”

Pelosi told CNN’s Manu Raju that Trump’s letter is “really sick” while the Los Angeles Times editorial board calls it further proof that “Trump is a uniquely bad, dishonest president, unsuited and unprepared for the vast responsibilities of the office he holds.”

bill palmer report logo headerTrump’s letter to Pelosi is certainly remarkable because of how outrageous and outlandish it is. However, the most important aspect of the letter is the mere fact that Trump sent it. It turns out that there is a certain type of person who sends such letters at such times, and that is a guilty person. Speaking from vast experience, former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirshner explained this perfectly on MSNBC’s MTP Daily.

“I have seen letters like this many times before as a federal prosecutor… whether I was prosecuting RICO cases against some of the most notorious gang members in DC or standalone murder cases.” Kirshner recounted. He recalled how these letters would often arrive before trial from defendants claiming that they are the real victims, that they have been framed, that everyone is out to get them, and that no one should be believed. Each time Kirshner’s prosecution team would receive such a letter, they would simply recognize that it was written by someone who is “truly guilty” of the charges against them and not feeling good about their chances at trial.

By contrast, Kirshner noted that defendants who strongly believed in their innocence and thought they had a winning case “would just kind of sit back and be quietly confident about their odds in court.” Trump’s maniacal missive, however, is “like a desperate jailhouse letter from a guilty pretrial defendant.” At this point, Trump might as well just put on a T-shirt that says “GUILTY.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Some House Democrats push Pelosi to withhold impeachment articles, delay Senate trial, Mike DeBonis, Dec. 18, 2019. A group of House Democrats is pushing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders to withhold the articles of impeachment against President Trump that are expected to emerge on Wednesday, potentially delaying a Senate trial for months.

mitch mcconnell elevator getty croppedThe notion of impeaching Trump but holding the articles in the House has gained traction among some on the political left as a way of potentially forcing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to conduct a trial on more favorable terms for Democrats. And if no agreement is reached, some have argued, the trial could be delayed indefinitely, denying Trump an expected acquittal.

djt impeached nydailynews cover dec.19 2019 CustomThe gambit has gained some traction inside the left wing of the House Democratic Caucus this week. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said Wednesday, as his colleagues debated the impeachment articles on the House floor, that he has spoken to three dozen Democratic lawmakers who had expressed some level of enthusiasm for the idea of “rounding out the record and spending the time to do this right.”

The notion has been most prominently advocated by Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor who has advised the House Judiciary Committee on the impeachment process. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, he wrote that “the public has a right to observe a meaningful trial rather than simply learn that the result is a verdict of not guilty.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has asked McConnell to call several Trump administration witnesses, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton. McConnell has dismissed those requests and signaled that he expects to hold a relatively short trial that will end with a summary dismissal of the impeachment charges.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Dump Trump!’: Protesters across U.S. rally for impeachment, Griff Witte, Annie Gowen, Scott Wilson and Lori Rozsa, Dec. 18, 2019 (print ed.). Protesters gather outside Congress. Demonstrators in big cities and small towns from coast to coast rallied Tuesday for President Trump's impeachment, celebrating the historic step the House is expected to take Wednesday while bemoaning that the push to oust him is almost certain to die in the Senate.

Organizers said that there were more than 600 protests nationwide — from Hawaii to Maine — with the goal of demonstrating “to our lawmakers that their constituents are behind them to defend the Constitution.”
Law, Courts

washington post logoFBI logoWashington Post, Surveillance court demands answers from FBI for errors, omissions in Trump campaign probe, Devlin Barrett, Dec. 18, 2019 (print ed.). The court said the FBI's conduct was “antithetical” to how the foreign intelligence surveillance program is supposed to work.

Court Slam's Obamacare Mandate

ny times logoNew York Times, Obamacare Insurance Mandate Is Struck Down by Federal Appeals Court, Abby Goodnough, Dec. 18, 2019.  The decision left the fate of the nearly decade-old law in limbo even as health care has become a central issue in the presidential race.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday struck down a central provision of the Affordable Care Act, ruling that the requirement that people have health insurance was unconstitutional.

But the appeals panel did not invalidate the rest of the law, instead sending the case back to a federal district judge in Texas to “conduct a more searching inquiry” into which of the law’s many parts could survive without the mandate.

The 2-1 decision, by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, left the fate of the nearly decade-old health law in limbo even as access to health care has become a central issue in the presidential race. Republicans, for whom a decision to throw out the law heading into the presidential election year could have been a political nightmare, seemed relieved, while Democrats issued a flurry of statements emphasizing that the law was still in grave danger.

O’Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth struck down the entire law, saying the individual mandate could not be severed from the rest of the Affordable Care Act because it was “the keystone” of the law, essential to its regulation of the health insurance market. With Judge O’Connor now facing an time-consuming assignment from the appellate court, the case is unlikely to be resolved before next year’s presidential election.

Two of the three appellate judges, Jennifer Walker Elrod, appointed by President George W. Bush in 2007, and Kurt Engelhardt, appointed by President Trump in 2018, wrote the ruling. The third, Carolyn Dineen King, appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, dissented.

Some 17 million Americans could lose the coverage gained through the Affordable Care Act if the law was thrown out, more than 50 million people with pre-existing medical conditions could again be denied health insurance and insurers would no longer have to cover people up to age 26 under their parents’ plans.

A central question in the case was whether the Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate” requiring most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty became unconstitutional after Congress reduced the penalty to zero dollars as part of the tax overhaul bill enacted in 2017. When the Supreme Court upheld the mandate in its landmark 2012 ruling that saved the law, it was based on Congress’s power to impose taxes.

2020 U.S. Elections

stacy abrams brian kemp file

washington post logoWashington Post, Georgia purged 309,000 voters from its rolls. It’s the second state to make cuts in less than a week, Reis Thebault and Hannah Knowles, Dec. 18, 2019. The moves have alarmed voting rights advocates, who fear the removals will disenfranchise swaths of the electorate. A voting rights group founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams is fighting the mass purge led by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, shown above in file photos.

Overnight, the number of registered voters in Georgia shrank by more than 300,000 in a contested but court-sanctioned action that could redefine the 2020 election, critics warned.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosState officials have downplayed the mass cancellation, arguing it is routine “list maintenance.” Others say the practice amounts to a large-scale and undemocratic voter purge, which comes just over three months before Georgia’s presidential primaries.

This week, a federal judge allowed the secretary of state’s office to remove about 4 percent of registered voters from the rolls, a move officials said was aimed at those who have recently died or left Georgia. But there were also more than 120,000 people included in that cull simply because they hadn’t voted since 2012 or responded to mailings from the state, according to a lawsuit filed to halt the purge.

Georgia is the second state in four days to announce the deletion of hundreds of thousands of names from its rolls, alarming voting rights advocates, who fear the removals will disenfranchise swaths of the electorate — particularly low-income voters, young people and people of color, who tend to lean Democratic.

robert hyde djt Custom

Hartford Courant, Editorial: Robert F. Hyde, get out of the race. The Republican party deserves better, Editorial Board, Dec. 18, 2019. Robert F. Hyde, a Simsbury resident and currently a Republican candidate for the 5th U.S. House District, is confused. He apparently thinks it is OK, perfectly fine, to tweet gross and misogynistic insults. Here’s a clarifying thought: He needs to step out of the race.

But he is not, and the Trumpian approach of being as crass as possible doesn’t work here in Connecticut.

Who is the Robert Hyde (shown above left) who surfaced in House Intelligence Committee documents?

In early December, Mr. Hyde tweeted a few hardly subtle phrases about Kamala Harris’ departure from the race for the Democratic nomination for president. They are too crude to be published here. Mr. Hyde should be embarrassed — but, to judge from his subsequent tweets, he is not.

“I wasn’t thinking on my earlier statement,'' Hyde tweeted on Tuesday, in a post that has been removed. “I felt Kampala Harris is a tremendous and one of the stronger candidates and I felt she shouldn’t have dropped out of the race so soon. The Democrats haven’t even started talking about issues.”

Kampala?

On Wednesday, a defiant tweet remained: “Kamala literally destroyed a great man (Kavanaugh) on National TV and I’m the bad guy over a tweet that was poor in taste that I posted a month ago? It’s ok for dems right? Quick question, do you think I’ll ever quit?”

Maybe he thought he was running for president.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, A Surveillance Net Blankets China’s Cities, Giving Police Vast Powers, Paul Mozur and Aaron Krolik, Dec. 18, 2019 (print ed.). The authorities can scan phones and faces, and find out when people leave their homes, aiming one of the world’s biggest spying networks at regular people.

china flag SmallOnce combined and fully operational, the tools can help police grab the identities of people as they walk down the street, find out who they are meeting with and identify who does and doesn’t belong to the Communist Party.

The United States and other countries use some of the same techniques to track terrorists or drug lords. Chinese cities want to use them to track everybody.

washington post logojuan guaido cellphoneWashington Post, Juan Guaidó promised to save Venezuela. Now his revolution is starting to dim, Anthony Faiola, Dec. 18, 2019 (print ed.). The opposition leader (shown in a file photo) is struggling to maintain momentum and unity against setbacks, corruption allegations and an unexpectedly resilient President Nicolás Maduro.

washington post logoWashington Post, Japanese journalist is awarded damages in rape case inspired by #MeToo movement, Simon Denyer and Akiko Kashiwagi, Dec. 18, 2019. Shiori Ito alleged that a well-known male journalist, Noriyuki Yamaguchi, assaulted her in 2015.

japan flag stdA Japanese civil court awarded about $30,000 in damages to a journalist who alleged she was raped by a powerful television bureau chief, in a case that highlighted Japan's outdated rape laws and the obstacles women face in alleging sexual misconduct in a nation run by a conservative, male-dominated establishment.

Although the compensation was about one-third of what Shiori Ito had sought, the verdict Wednesday marked a victory for women’s rights in Japan and for the country’s nascent #MeToo movement.

  • Washington Post, Days after Brexit becomes almost certain, Poland’s Supreme Court says that country could be at risk of leaving the E.U., too
  • Washington Post, Former Afghan leader Hamid Karzai grew estranged from his American allies during 10 years in power. Here’s what he says about The Afghanistan Papers.

Media News

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), RSF Yearly Roundup, Staff report, Dec. 18, 2019. A total of 49 journalists were killed this year, 389 are currently in prison and 57 are being held hostage, according to the annual worldwide round-up of deadly violence and abusive treatment against journalists, released today by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Journalism remains a dangerous profession but the number of journalists killed this year is at its lowest in 16 years.U.S. Crime, Fake News

Daily Kos via Alternet, Media fail: The press keeps covering impeachment through the eyes of the Republican Party, Eric Boehlert, Dec. 18, 2019. The political press corps may have hit peak impeachment failure on Sunday when Meet the Press host Chuck Todd introduced a segment in which voters from a toss-up district in Michigan were interviewed about the House proceedings against Donald Trump.

Touted as a way to take the temperature of everyday voters outside of the “Beltway,” the sit-down with six voters from Kent County, Michigan, offered a chance to hear from America’s heartland and if its denizens “care” about impeachment. Except there was a slight problem: Every voter interviewed was a Republican, and every voter interviewed opposed impeachment. (“I don’t even care. It’s just noise.”)

justin amash o2Even more stunning was the fact that the Michigan county highlighted by Meet the Press is represented in Congress by Justin Amash, left, who made headlines earlier this year when he left the Republican Party because of Trump’s corrupt behavior, and who has since come out in favor of impeachment. Yet network news producers looked at that backdrop, and the fact that 54% of Americans support impeachment according to the most recent Fox News poll, and thought the best approach would be to only ask Republican voters how they felt about impeachment?

If that doesn’t pull back the curtain on today’s coverage and how it’s being told literally through the eyes of the Republican Party, I don’t know what does. Wedded to the Republican narrative that impeachment has put Democrats back on their heels and is boosting Trump’s standing, the press in recent weeks increasingly resembled a soft landing spot for GOP spin.

Keep in mind Democrats just won 40 House seats last year in what many observers saw as voters rewarding the party for vowing to stand up to Trump. Additionally, Republicans under Trump have lost control of the Virginia legislature, lost 435 state legislative seats nationwide while losing control of chambers in Colorado, New York, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Washington, and Maine, and lost the governor mansions in Louisiana and Kentucky. Yet the media narrative today regarding impeachment is that Democrats standing up to Trump are in danger of … upsetting voters? It doesn’t make sense. But many journalists and news organizations have adopted that hollow “Democrats in Disarray” storyline.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Accused Pizzagate Arsonist Pleads Guilty to Setting Fire at D.C. Pizzeria, Will Sommer, Dec. 17, 2019. Ryan Jaselskis faces four years in prison after admitting to setting a fire at Comet Ping Pong. A 23-year-old California man pleaded guilty Tuesday to starting a fire earlier this year at a Washington pizzeria that lies at the heart of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, in a crime that appears to be linked to bizarre internet claims about the restaurant.

Ryan Jaselskis accepted a two-count deal from prosecutors that will send him to prison for four years, if it’s accepted by a judge at his sentencing in March. Under the conditions of his guilty plea, Jaselskis admitted to starting a fire on Jan. 23 at pizzeria Comet Ping Pong and assaulting a law enforcement officer near the Washington Monument days later.

Security footage taken the night of the arson showed Jaselskis lighting a curtain in the back of the pizzeria on fire before fleeing. An employee put out the fire before anyone in the restaurant could be hurt.

Prosecutors haven’t revealed Jaselskis’s motives for starting the fire, and his defense attorney declined to comment on Tuesday. But the arson appears to be related to Pizzagate, the baseless internet conspiracy theory that posits that Hillary Clinton and other top Democratic figures operate a cannibalistic, pedophile sex dungeon out of the restaurant’s nonexistent basement.

An hour before Jaselskis started the fire, someone posted a video to his parents’ YouTube account promoted Pizzagate-style claims. Jaselskis was eventually arrested in February after fighting National Park Police officers in an attempt to break into the Washington Monument.

Jaselskis wouldn’t be the first person motivated to commit violence by Pizzagate conspiracy theories, which proliferated online shortly before the 2016 presidential election. In Dec. 2016, a North Carolina man who believed in Pizzagate fired an AR-15 rifle inside the pizzeria. Welch was sentenced to four years in prison.

While no one was hurt in either incidents, the conspiracy theory has continued to bedevil the pizzeria and surrounding years after the claims first emerged.

Public Health

ny times logoNew York Times, A New Drug Scourge: Deaths Involving Meth Are Rising Fast, Abby Goodnough, Dec. 18, 2019 (print ed.). Today’s meth is far more potent than earlier versions, but because it isn’t an opioid, many federal addiction treatment funds can’t be used to fight it.

U.S. Law, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Is Entitled to Snowden’s Proceeds From His Memoir, Judge Says, Mihir Zaveri, Dec. 18, 2019. The former intelligence contractor did not let federal intelligence agencies vet his book before it was published in breach of his agreements with the agencies, the judge said.

edward snowden permanent recordThe federal government is entitled to the former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden’s proceeds from his new memoir and from several of his paid speeches because he did not submit the material, which referenced intelligence activities, to federal agencies in advance, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Liam O’Grady of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., said in his ruling that Mr. Snowden, who disclosed top-secret documents in 2013 about National Security Agency surveillance programs, had previously signed agreements with the C.I.A. and the N.S.A. allowing them to review disclosures about certain intelligence-related work before he made them public.

In his memoir published in September, Permanent Record (whose cover is shown at right), Mr. Snowden recounts how he came to be alarmed by the growth of the security agency’s surveillance capabilities — including its then-secret systematic collection of logs of Americans’ domestic phone calls — and how he copied documents and provided them to the news media.

He did not submit the book for review, and the Justice Department sued Mr. Snowden, seeking to seize his proceeds from it, the same day it was published.

ny times logoNew York Times, State Charges Against Manafort Dismissed by Judge in New York, Jan Ransom, Dec. 18, 2019. A judge threw out state charges against Paul J. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, on Wednesday, dealing a setback to efforts by the Manhattan district attorney to ensure Mr. Manafort will still face prison time if Mr. Trump pardons him for his federal crimes.

paul manafort mugMr. Manafort, shown in a mug shot, had been charged in Manhattan with mortgage fraud and more than a dozen other state felonies. But Justice Maxwell Wiley of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan dismissed the indictment, saying the charges violated the legal principle of double jeopardy, which holds that a defendant may not be tried twice for the same conduct.

The district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., had brought the charges in March 2019, shortly after Mr. Manafort was sentenced in federal court, where he had been convicted of conspiracy and tax and bank fraud in two cases that had been prosecuted by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

The 16-count indictment Mr. Vance obtained from a state grand jury accused Mr. Manafort, 70, of falsifying business records to obtain millions of dollars in loans. It grew out of an investigation that began in 2017, when the Manhattan prosecutors began examining loans Mr. Manafort received from two banks.

Justice Wiley agreed. “Basically, the law of double jeopardy in New York State provides a very narrow window for prosecution,” he said during a short hearing before releasing a 26-page written decision.

Mr. Manafort did not appear in court on Wednesday. He has been hospitalized since last week after suffering a cardiac ailment while serving seven and a half years in federal prison in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Vance’s office said it would challenge the judge’s ruling.

Dec. 17

Impeachment Headlines 

Impeachment News Noted Above 

ny times logoNew York Times, McConnell Rejects Calling 4 Trump Aides as Impeachment Witnesses, Michael D. Shear, Dec. 17, 2019. Senator mitch mcconnell elevator getty croppedMitch McConnell, right, the Republican leader, said he would not agree to call key witnesses on the eve of a House vote on Wednesday. The four witnesses all have firsthand knowledge of President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, including Mick Mulvaney and John R. Bolton.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Denounces ‘Partisan Impeachment Crusade’ on Eve of House Vote, Michael D. Shear, Dec. 17, 2019. President Trump denounced the impeachment inquiry in scathing terms in a six-page letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “I have no doubt the American people will hold you and the Democrats fully responsible in the upcoming 2020 election,” he wrote.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)Mr. Trump wrote that he knew his letter would not change the outcome of Wednesday’s votes, expected to occur almost entirely on party lines, to impeach him. But he said the missive was “for the purpose of history and to put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record.”

The president angrily disputed both impeachment charges against him in the letter, saying he had done nothing wrong and asserting that Ms. Pelosi and her allies were using the Constitution to attack him for the successful policies he had implemented.

Rick Gates, right, once the indispensable right-hand man to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, left, and a star witness in paul manafort rick gates nbcnews Custom 2special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe, was sentenced Tuesday morning in federal court in Washington.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rick Gates, Ex-Trump Aide and Key Witness for Mueller, Is Sentenced to 45 Days in Jail, Sharon LaFraniere, Dec. 17, 2019. Rick Gates, the former Trump campaign aide who helped bring down two former advisers to President Trump, was sentenced on Tuesday to 45 days in jail and a $20,000 fine for his part in a criminal financial scheme and for lying to federal investigators.

Mr. Gates, 47, can serve the jail time intermittently if he prefers, such as on weekends. He was also sentenced to three years of probation and 300 hours of community service. Mr. Gates had hoped to be spared a prison term in amy berman jacksonexchange for his extensive cooperation with the government after pleading guilty in February 2018.

“I greatly regret the mistakes I have made and I have worked hard to honor my commitment to make amends,” he told Judge Amy Berman Jackson, left, of the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia.

Sentencing guidelines recommended that Mr. Gates, who was a deputy campaign chairman in 2016 and went on to help manage Mr. Trump’s inauguration, serve a prison term of 46 to 57 months. But the guidelines are only advisory.

ny times logoNew York Times, William Taylor, Key Impeachment Witness, Is Stepping Down, Lara Jakes, Dec. 17, 2019. Mr. Taylor, a top diplomat in Ukraine, objected to what he saw as the Trump administration’s shadow foreign policy in the country. William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine who described for Congress and the public what he saw as President Trump’s efforts to pressure Kyiv to go after a political rival, is expected to leave his post at the end of the year.

william taylor o croppedA person familiar with the planning said Mr. Taylor, right, was leaving because his temporary appointment to Ukraine last June is set to expire. Under the Vacancies Act, political appointees in an acting position can hold office only for about 200 days.

Mr. Taylor, a longtime diplomat, was asked to come out of retirement after the former United States ambassador to Kyiv, Marie L. Yovanovitch, was ousted for resisting a shadow foreign policy campaign in Ukraine that was run by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: We Are Republicans, and We Want Trump Defeated, George T. Conway III, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and Rick Wilson, Dec. 17, 2019. The president and his enablers have replaced conservatism with an empty faith led by a bogus prophet.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judiciary Committee Report Argues Trump ‘Betrayed the Nation,’ Michael D. Shear, Dec. 17, 2019 (print ed.). The 658-page report asserts that President Trump should be impeached for abusing his office and obstructing the congressional inquiry into his actions. The House Judiciary Committee formally presented its case for impeaching President President Donald Trump officialTrump in a 658-page report published online early Monday morning, arguing just days before a final vote in the House that he “betrayed the nation by abusing his high office.”

The report, which echoes similar documents produced after the committee’s approval of impeachment articles for Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton, contains no new allegations or evidence against Mr. Trump.

But it offers a detailed road map for the two articles of impeachment the committee approved, charging that Mr. Trump abused the power of the presidency to enlist Ukraine in tarnishing his political rivals and obstructing Congress by blocking witnesses from testifying and refusing to provide documents.

The House is expected to vote on Wednesday on whether to impeach the sitting president for only the third time in the nation’s history, setting in motion a trial in the Senate early next year that could lead to Mr. Trump’s removal from office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I Headed the F.B.I. and C.I.A. There’s a Dire Threat to the Country I Love, William Webster (shown in a photo photo), Dec. 17, 2019 (print ed.). The rule of law is the principle that protects every American from the abuse of monarchs, despots and tyrants. The privilege of being the only American in our history to serve as the director of both the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. william webstergives me a unique perspective and a responsibility to speak out about a dire threat to the rule of law in the country I love.

Order protects liberty, and liberty protects order. Today, the integrity of the institutions that protect our civil order are, tragically, under assault from too many people whose job it should be to protect them.

The rule of law is the bedrock of American democracy, the principle that protects every American from the abuse of monarchs, despots and tyrants. Every FBI logoAmerican should demand that our leaders put the rule of law above politics.

I am deeply disturbed by the assertion of President Trump that our “current director” — as he refers to the man he selected for the job of running the F.B.I. — cannot fix what the president calls a broken agency. The 10-year term given to all directors following J. Edgar Hoover’s 48-year tenure was created to provide independence for the director and for the bureau.

The president’s thinly veiled suggestion that the director, Christopher Wray, right, like his banished predecessor, James Comey, could be on the chopping block, disturbs me greatly. The christopher wray officialindependence of both the F.B.I. and its director are critical and should be fiercely protected by each branch of government.

Calling F.B.I. professionals “scum,” as the president did, is a slur against people who risk their lives to keep us safe. Mr. Barr’s charges of bias within the F.B.I., made without providing any evidence and in direct dispute of the findings of the nonpartisan inspector general, risk inflicting enduring damage on this critically important institution.

Mr. Webster, age 96, is a former federal judge and the former director of both the F.B.I. and the C.I.A.

washington post logoWashington Post, Centrist Democrats line up to support impeachment, Seung Min Kim, Felicia Sonmez and Philip Rucker, Dec. 17, 2019 (print ed.). No matter what House Democrats ultimately end  Democrats from swing districts announced Monday they would vote to impeach President Trump, braving White House pressure and risking political blowback.

U.S. House logoA contingent of Democratic House members from Republican-leaning districts announced one by one Monday that after weeks of extraordinary pressure, they have decided to vote to impeach President Trump, as the House hurtles toward historic action later this week. Reps. Ben McAdams (Utah) and Joe Cunningham (S.C.), for example, had been widely expected to be among the half-dozen or so Democrats breaking with their party. Both said Monday they would vote in favor of impeaching Trump.

These Democrats characterized their choices as acts of conscience. “The President’s actions violate his oath of office, endanger our national security, and betray the public trust,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger (Va.), right, a freshman who represents a Richmond-area district that voted for Trump in 2016, said in a statement.

A trio of female Democrats with backgrounds in national security, who in September came out in favor of opening an impeachment inquiry into the president’s conduct, also said they have decided to vote for impeachment. That includes Spanberger, a former CIA abigail spanberger twitterofficer, as well as Reps. Elissa Slotkin (Mich.), a former CIA analyst and Defense Department official, and Elaine Luria (Va.), a former Navy commander.

Monday’s announcements dealt a blow to Trump and his allies, who had been encouraging Democrats to defect to bolster their depiction of impeachment as a crusade by extremist liberals. The White House had mounted an all-out effort to pressure the centrists, many of whom faced a blitz of anti-impeachment ads and are risking significant political damage.

• Analysis: Which House members support impeaching Trump
• Recap: Democrats accuse Trump of criminal bribery, wire fraud in report on impeachment articles
• 700 scholars pen letter urging House to impeach Trump

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort hospitalized in stable condition, attorney says, Rachel Weiner and Tom Hamburger, Dec. 17, 2019.  Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is serving a federal prison sentence for crimes related to his lobbying work in Ukraine, has been hospitalized since Thursday and is in stable condition, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Attorney Todd Blanche said he and his client’s family first learned about Manafort’s medical condition from a reporter at ABC News and have been unable to get information from the Bureau of Prisons.

“Of course, his family and friends are extremely concerned about his health and still do not have a full understanding of his medical condition or well-being,” Blanche said. “We were relieved to learn this afternoon that Mr. Manafort’s condition is stable, and we are hopeful that he makes a speedy recovery.”

The longtime lobbyist is serving a 7 ½-year sentence in a Pennsylvania penitentiary after being convicted as part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into interference in the 2016 election. His former deputy, Rick Gates, who testified against Manafort at trial, was sentenced Tuesday to 45 days in jail.

Michael Flynn's Sentencing

michael flynn djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Flynn’s sentencing set for Jan. 28 after judge rejects his attacks on FBI, Justice, Spencer S. Hsu and Carol D. Leonnig, Dec. 16, 2019. A federal judge on Monday rejected Michael Flynn’s attacks against the FBI and the Justice Department, setting a long-delayed sentencing for President Trump’s former national security adviser for Jan. 28.

emmet sullivan 2012U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of Washington dismissed Flynn’s motion to find prosecutors in contempt. In a 92-page decision, Sullivan ruled there was no basis for Flynn’s allegations that federal law enforcement officials entrapped the retired three-star Army general into accepting a plea deal or that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s prosecutors had wrongfully held back 50 requests for evidence from Flynn’s attorneys.

Flynn, shown above at left, who pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his interactions with Russia’s ambassador after the 2016 U.S. election, had been set to be sentenced this Wednesday. Sullivan this month delayed the sentencing pending a report by a Justice Department inspector general on how the FBI handled the Russia investigation, which reviewed topics related to Flynn’s allegations.

The report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, released last week, said that the FBI was justified in opening its 2016 probe of possible coordination between Russia and four members of the Trump campaign, including Flynn. But the report also found the FBI made significant errors or omissions in applying for intelligence surveillance warrants for one of them, former campaign adviser Carter Page.

Sullivan reviewed Flynn’s more detailed accusations that misconduct by the FBI, the Justice Department and Mueller’s office raised ethical concerns and cast doubt on his investigation, but he denied defense claims that they warranted tossing out his plea in favor of a trial or dismissal of his case. Similar to Horowitz’s findings, the court ruling undercut arguments that the FBI investigation or Justice Department prosecution of Flynn was unjustified or improperly handled.

Refuting Flynn’s claims that he was misled into unwittingly pleading guilty to charges, Sullivan wrote that it was undisputed that Flynn told the same lies to the FBI, Vice President Pence and senior White House officials, who repeated them to the American public, leading to his firing in February 2017.

Sullivan, the longest-serving active federal judge on the U.S. District Court in Washington and a judicial appointee of presidents of both parties, has a nationwide reputation for championing defendants rights under the “Brady rule,” which established the government's obligation to turn over evidence that can be useful for the defense.

In Flynn’s case, however, Sullivan eviscerated defense claims that the government failed to meet its duties, writing that the court “concludes that Mr. Flynn has failed to establish a single Brady violation.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: The media just did Nancy Pelosi a big impeachment favor, Bill Palmer, Dec.r 17, 2019. Over the past few days, various House Democrats in swing districts have announced that they’re voting for the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. Considering that impeachment is both the right thing to do and the politically smart thing for Democrats to do, this shouldn’t shock anyone. And yet we’re seeing pundit after pundit react with surprise over these announcements.

bill palmer report logo headerThe mainstream media has spent all year pushing the narrative that if the House Democrats impeach Donald Trump, it’ll somehow help his odds in 2020, and it’ll somehow hurt the House Democrats in 2020. This makes zero sense, of course. A number of Republican-leaning districts voted a Democrat into the House specifically because they were sick of Trump and wanted him reeled in. These voters are not going to turn around and punish these Democrats for doing precisely what the voters wanted them to do.

But “impeachment will somehow help Trump” is a nice scary narrative that keeps people tuned in, and thus is great for ratings, so we just keep hearing it. Nevermind that a majority of Americans support impeachment, that Trump’s 2020 poll numbers are as non-competitive as ever, and that a large majority of Americans say they’re unhappy with the Republican Senate’s plan to try to minimize impeachment.

So each time yet another House Democrat predictably announces a “yes” vote for articles of impeachment, the media is largely presenting it as a positive surprise for Nancy Pelosi. Not that she needs it, but she’s actually getting a boost in the perception department, because it’s being painted as though she somehow pulled off the impossible by getting all these House Democrats to vote in favor of what they were sent to Washington to do. Because of the way the pundits are trying to milk this for ratings, it’s giving the perception that the House Democrats have even more momentum coming out of impeachment than they do. And in politics, perception becomes reality.

U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What Biden has going for him, Jennifer Rubin, Dec. 17, 2019 (print ed.). Recently released national polls joe biden headshotfrom NPR/Marist, Fox News, Morning Consult, Quinnipiac and IBD/TIPP show former vice president Joe Biden, right, doing quite well, with his support ranging from 24 to 30 percent.

The most extraordinary feature of Biden’s polling is his share of African American voters.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Opinion: Has Gaetz been taking dark money from foreign gangsters? Wayne Madsen, Dec. 17, 2019. Indicted Rudolph Giuliani business associate, the Ukrainian-born U.S. citizen Lev Parnas, has distributed a ton of campaign cash to Republican politicians, particularly in his home state of Florida. In fact, Parnas and his colleague, Igor Fruman, currently stand indicted by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) for campaign finance law violations.

Federal investigators may also want to take a close look at the origin of $718,464 in certificates of deposit maintained by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach in 2012. The next year, the funds -- $484,383 maintained in Florida 1st Bank in Destin, Florida and $234,081 in Wells Fargo Bank in Niceville, Florida -- were gone and, furthermore, they went unreported by Gaetz, then a Florida State Representative.

Perhaps it is time for House Democrats to place Mr. Gaetz under the bright spotlight and ask him who, other than his wealthy father, has been financing his campaigns and his life style?

U.S. Crime, Courts

chrystul kizer randy volar Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, He was having sex with underage girls. Then, police said, one of them killed him, Jessica Contrera, Dec. 17, 2019. Now Chrystul Kizer, right, who was 16 when she met Randy Volar, left, is accused of murdering her alleged sex trafficker. She faces life in prison.

Her case comes at a time when police and prosecutors across the country are reevaluating how victims of sex trafficking should be treated. This year, Tennessee released Cyntoia Brown, whose story went viral in the midst of the #MeToo movement. She went to prison at age 16 and served 15 years for killing a man who purchased her for sex.

U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUSblog, Ask the author: The enduring and controversial legacy of the Warren Court, Ronald Collins, Dec. 17, 2019. The following is a series of questions posed by Ronald Collins to Geoffrey Stone and David Strauss in connection with their new book, “Democracy and Equality: The Enduring Constitutional Vision of the Warren Court” (Oxford University Press, 2020).

Geoffrey Stone is the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago Law School. He served as dean of the law school from 1987-1994 and provost of the University of Chicago from 1994-2002. Stone was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. and before that a law clerk to Judge J. Skelly Wright on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

David Strauss is the Gerald Ratner Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Jenner & Block Supreme Court and Appellate Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School. Before joining the law school faculty, he worked as an attorney-advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice and was an assistant to the Solicitor General of the United geoffrey stone david strauss democracy and equality coverStates. Stone and Strauss, along with Yale Law School professor Justin Driver, are the editors of the Supreme Court Review.

Question: “Democracy and Equality” is the 18th book in the “Inalienable Rights” series published by Oxford University Press. As the editor of the series, Geoffrey, congratulations on such an impressive array of books by everyone from Richard Epstein to Laurence Tribe and from Martha Nussbaum to Nadine Strossen. Might you tell us what’s in the works for the next volume or two?

Stone & Strauss: By coincidence, the next two volumes in the series, which will be published in 2020, both deal with the issue of religion. In the 19th volume, Jack Rakove, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian at Stanford, has written “Beyond Belief, Beyond Conscience,” which explores the evolution of religious freedom from the 16th century to the modern era, focusing especially on history, philosophy and political theory.

In the 20th volume, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and Howard Gillman, chancellor of the University of California, Irvine, have written “The Religion Clauses: The Case for Separating Church and State,” which focuses on what the authors see as the troubling directions our conservative justices are now taking insofar as they reject the idea of a wall separating church and state.

Question: The first book in the “Inalienable Rights” series was Richard Posner’s “Not a Suicide Pact: The Constitution in Times of a National Emergency” (2006). In the editor’s note to that volume, Geoffrey and Dedi Felman wrote: “Rights invite discussion: What is a constitutional right? What are the counterbalancing duties?”
In terms of the Warren Court’s civil rights and civil liberties jurisprudence, what do you see as some of the major counterbalancing duties?

World News

  • Washington Post, Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf is sentenced to death for treason, Dec. 17, 2019 (print ed.).

Student Protests / Sex Claims

Dallas Morning News, UT students protest at professor’s house over his writings on sexual relations between men and boys, María Méndez, Dec. 17, 2019. Some students say his research on pederasty promotes harmful ideas about sexual contact with minors.

Students have staged several protests at the University of Texas at Austin this fall in response to faculty with previous sexual misconduct policy violations remaining in the classroom. But last week, a smaller group of students took a more aggressive approach, protesting at the home of Classics professor Thomas K. Hubbard for his writings on the age of consent.

Hubbard has not been found guilty of any sexual misconduct violations or crimes, according to UT, and the university has provided security for the professor in the wake of the protest.

But some students say his research on pederasty -- sexual activity between a man and boy -- promotes harmful ideas about sexual relations with minors.

The group live-streamed its Dec. 9 protest on the Twitter account Fire The Abusers. A group of women are seen in the broadcast banging on the door of a house while shouting, “Thomas Hubbard, come outside. Pedophile, you can’t hide.”

Later in the video, Austin police escort Hubbard out of the house. The department confirmed receiving a call Dec. 9 at 6:03 p.m. Protesters dispersed around 6:54 p.m. without any arrests, according to a police spokeswoman.

An Austin eye care store near Hubbard’s residence was also found vandalized the morning of Dec. 9 with the words “Pedo Hubbard, watch your back.” Employees told The Dallas Morning News they found the vandalism on the side of the business at around 9:30 a.m. It was covered by that afternoon.

Members of Fire The Abusers declined to provide comment on the record.

Hubbard, 63, told The News he is “not personally oriented to underage youth” and has not been found to have committed any crime or sexual harassment during his 40 years of teaching.

“It is no more valid to conclude that scholars who work on sex offender policy and the relevance of cross-cultural evidence are themselves sex offenders than to think that advocates of drug decriminilization [sic] are themselves drug abusers or that advocates of criminal justice reform are criminals,” Hubbard said in an email. “Such simplistic thinking chills serious debate and research on vital public policy issues.”

Hubbard said last week that a uniformed police officer was patrolling his house and that University of Texas police had been driving by his residence every hour.

UT spokeswoman Shilpa Bakre said the university is providing Hubbard with ongoing support, counsel and security. She said the “recent incidents directed at Professor Hubbard are unacceptable.”

Dec. 16

Impeachment Headlines 

Impeachment Coverage Noted Above  

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats accuse Trump of criminal bribery in report on impeachment articles, John Wagner and Brittany Shammas​, Dec. 16, 2019. The report released this morning explains the two articles of impeachment that the House is expected to approve Wednesday. Senators are preparing for a trial of the president in early us senate logoJanuary.

Democrats accused President Trump of “multiple federal crimes,” including bribery and wire fraud, in a new report released early Monday that explains the articles of impeachment that the House is expected to approve mostly along party lines on Wednesday.

A trial will probably begin in the Republican-led Senate in early January, and Democrats are seeking to call several senior Trump administration officials who did not testify as part of the House proceedings. 

Palmer Report, Opinion: Finalized articles of impeachment have just set Donald Trump on a clear path to prison, Bill Palmer, Dec. 16, 2019. djt nancy pelosiThe House Judiciary Committee released the finalized iteration of the two existing articles of impeachment today, and it turns out the House Democrats have made a point of including language that spells out that Donald Trump committed “multiple federal crimes.”

bill palmer report logo headerThis matters for few reasons. In the short term, it makes clear to the general public that Trump really is a criminal, which should help nudge the ever-slowly-climbing impeachment poll numbers even higher. It takes away any Republican argument in the court of public opinion that Trump shouldn’t be impeached because he’s not even accused of committing a crime.

But there’s something more here. These articles of impeachment are a clear directive to the post-Trump Department of Justice that it must criminally investigate Donald Trump in the Ukraine scandal, indict and arrest him once he’s no longer in office, and then put him on criminal trial.

washington post logoWashington Post, Schumer calls for testimony from Mulvaney, Bolton in impeachment trial, Seung Min Kim, Karoun Demirjian and Steven Mufson​, Dec. 16, 2019 (print ed.). In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer outlined procedural demands that Democrats believe would make the likely Senate trial of President Trump fair and completed “within a reasonable period of time.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Representative Elissa Slotkin, a moderate Democrat from Michigan, said that she would vote to impeach Mr. Trump, drawing protests and applause, Sheryl Gay Stolberg Dec. 16, 2019. Representative Elissa Slotkin, right, a moderate Democrat from Michigan, announced Monday that she elissa slotkin twitterwould vote to impeach President Trump — and quickly faced the consequences.

The blowback began on Monday even before Representative Elissa Slotkin took the lectern to announce she would vote to impeach President Trump.

djt maga hatDozens of angry Trump supporters bearing “Impeach Slotkin, Keep Trump” signs shouted down Ms. Slotkin, a first-term congresswoman, at a packed town hall-style meeting in a university ballroom, chanting “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Elissa Slotkin has got to go!” and “One-term congresswoman!” and “C.I.A. Hack!” — a reference to Ms. Slotkin’s past work as a C.I.A. analyst.

But the voices on the other side, though not nearly as loud, were present in force. Most in the crowd of about 400 people who gathered here on Monday leaped to their feet and applauded when Ms. Slotkin announced her intention to vote “yes” on Wednesday when the House holds its vote on the articles of impeachment.

ny times logoNew York, Nearly all of Representative Jeff Van Drew’s staff resigned over the Democrat’s reported decision to switch parties, Tracey Tully, Dec. 16, 2019. Nearly all of Representative Jeff Van Drew’s Washington staff resigned over the weekend as both Democrats and Republicans harshly criticized the moderate Democrat’s apparent decision to switch parties just as the House prepares to undertake its historic vote on articles of impeachment against President Trump.

jeff van drewMr. Van Drew, right, who hails from a conservative district that for 24 years before his election was represented by a Republican, is one of only two Democrats who voted against rules laying out the impeachment process.

democratic donkey logo“Sadly, Congressman Van Drew’s decision to join the ranks of Republican Party led by Donald Trump does not align with the values we brought to this job when we joined his office,’’ according to a letter from five staff members, a copy of which was provided to The New York Times.

NBC News reported that a sixth staffer had also resigned. A seventh person also resigned, according to a person familiar with the situation in Mr. Van Drew’s office, leaving his chief of staff as the sole remaining staff member in his Washington office.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Jeff Van Drew’s decision to leave the Democratic Party is already blowing up in his face, Bill Palmer, Dec. 16, 2019. Over the weekend, Congressman Jeff Van Drew, announced that he was not only voting against impeaching Donald Trump, he was switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. Palmer Report explained that because Van Drew had already alienated himself from Democratic voters in his swing district, by switching to the Republican Party he was actually increasing the odds that the Democrats would win the seat in 2020. Now Van Drew is already facing blowback.

Five (now reported as seven) members of Jeff Van Drew’s congressional staff have already announced their resignations in the wake of his decision to leave the Democratic Party. This makes clear that while Van Drew might be willing to join the corrupt party of Trump in a bizarre effort at keeping his job, his staffers aren’t willing to sell their souls just to keep their jobs.

bill palmer report logo headerThis also strongly suggests that this was an abrupt panic move on Van Drew’s part, as opposed to being something that he considered carefully and discussed with his staff before making the decision. Van Drew met with Donald Trump just before making the move, raising questions about what Trump might have offered him in return, or what Trump might be holding over his head.

It’s still not quite clear what’s really going on here. But while we wait for this to inevitably turn into some kind of corruption scandal, one thing is clear: Jeff Van Drew’s congressional career is in deep trouble. Even his own staff wants nothing to do with whatever downward spiral he’s decided to dive head first into here. We look forward to seeing which Democratic candidate ends up running against him in the 2020 race.

washington post logoWashington Post, John Durham has a stellar reputation for investigating corruption. Some fear his work for Barr could tarnish it, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 16, 2019. Legal observers say they’re perplexed by a public statement the longtime prosecutor made disputing the inspector general’s assessment of the Russia case’s origins.

john durham CustomWhen the U.S. government needed a prosecutor to ferret out corruption in its own law-enforcement and intelligence ranks, John Durham, left, was its go-to guy. The longtime prosecutor helped exonerate men wrongly convicted on murder charges, exposed an FBI agent tied to one of Boston’s most notorious gangsters and dug into the CIA’s destruction of video tapes thought to show foreign detainees being tortured.

But some of Durham’s actions in his latest high-profile assignment — examining the FBI’s 2016 investigation of President Trump’s campaign — have sparked a debate in Washington about whether he is even-handedly assessing possible wrongdoing, or carrying out a conservative political errand.

Justice Department log circularLast week, after the Justice Department inspector general released a report concluding the bureau had adequate cause to open the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, Durham issued a remarkable public statement registering his disagreement.

The move left many inside and outside the Justice Department puzzled, as it seemed out of step with Durham’s character. In general, law enforcement considers it inappropriate to comment on ongoing investigations, and Durham is known for being especially tight-lipped. In sworn testimony before Congress, Inspector General Michael Horowitz later described his and Durham’s dispute as being over a relatively unimportant bureaucratic distinction about how the probe was categorized — a matter that likely would not have had a substantive impact on the Russia case.

“I am bothered because his statement is completely unnecessary and, to me, is violative of the norms and customs of the Justice Department,” said former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi, who now works at the Carlton Fields law firm. “He has an ongoing investigation. He has not concluded it. And what he’s doing is he’s issuing a smoke signal that I may have information that is contrary to the report.”

A spokesman for Durham declined to comment.

Rick Gates, right, once the indispensable right-hand man to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, left, and a star witness in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe, is set to be sentenced Tuesday morning in federal court in Washington.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rick Gates faces sentencing for conspiracy and lying to FBI in Mueller probe, Spencer S. Hsu, Dec. 16, 2019. A globe-trotting lobbyist who for a decade helped manage Manafort’s affairs in Ukraine and London, Gates, 47, pleaded guilty in February 2018 to lying to the FBI and conspiring to conceal tens of millions of dollars earned from lucrative lobbying work he and Manafort had done for Ukraine.

Gates’s original plea deal called for a possible five- or six-year prison term, but federal prosecutors in court filings last week said they would not oppose his attorney’s request for no prison time, citing “extraordinary assistance” in the special counsel investigation, which sought to learn whether any Americans conspired with Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.

Gates, of Richmond, has complied with three congressional subpoenas and spent more than 500 hours with federal and state prosecutors, Green said. He cooperated with prosecutors while caring for his wife, whom supporters said was diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and their four children.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Don’t assume the Supreme Court will give Trump a resounding victory, Harry Litman (law professor and former federal prosecutor, shown at right), Dec. 16, 2019. President Trump no doubt welcomed the news that harry litman msnbc screenshotthe Supreme Court will review three separate decisions in which lower courts have ruled against him, upholding subpoenas calling for banks and accountants to turn over financial records pertaining to him. He’s taken a shellacking in the federal courts to date, and he’s well aware that the Supreme Court majority that he helped put in place is bullish on executive power.

But it would be a mistake to assume that the court will give Trump a resounding victory, or come close to upholding the extreme propositions that the president has been unsuccessfully advancing in the lower courts.

It is much more likely that the court will first set out principles defining the circumstances — for example, some sort of heightened evidentiary showing — under which the president’s personal records have to be turned over. They probably will be pro-executive branch principles that slant the balance toward future presidents, but Trump needs more than that to keep his taxes from public view.

And the next step after such a holding would be to remand to the lower courts to apply the announced principles, probably during the heat of the election, though possibly after. That is where Trump’s extreme arguments are likely to meet their end.

The Hill, Food inspectors warn of 'mystery' pork under new meat inspection rules, Justine Coleman, Dec. 16, 2019. Two federal inspectors warned that “mystery” meat and other unwanted materials will contaminate pork throughout the U.S. under the new meat inspection rules currently being used in a pilot program, NBC News reported Monday.

Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors Anthony Vallone and Jill Mauer told NBC News that they filed whistleblower disclosure forms with the Office of Special Counsel about their concerns with the reduction of the required number of federal inspectors at plants.

"The consumer's being duped," Mauer said, adding that the meat may be more likely to contain feces, sex organs, toenails, bladders and unwanted hair.

A pilot program for the adjusted rules for pork lines has been implemented at five plants. Five inspectors who worked at these plants talked to NBC News, while four others submitted affidavits with similar concerns.

NBC News notes that none of the inspectors it talked to say they themselves allowed unsafe meat to pass inspection.

"If this continues across the nation, when you open your package of meat, what you're gonna get for a pathogen is gonna be a mystery," Mauer added.

Typically, seven federal inspectors check the meat for defects, but under the new rules, the required number would drop to two or three with more experience but less hands-on time with the meat. The plants’ own employees would be instructed to check the meat directly without any required federal training.

The rules would also eliminate the maximum speed of the meat lines, giving less time for inspections.

"You can't really see very much in that time. So there's a lot of contamination heading out the door," Vallone told NBC News.

The other 35 plants in the U.S. are expected to apply for the new inspection rules. Those 40 plants together produce 92 percent of the pork Americans eat, NBC News reported.

An FSIS spokesperson told The Hill that the pilot program has been in effect in the five plants for nearly two decades without any evidence of increased outbreaks.

The Department of Agriculture told NBC News that federal inspectors are allowed to stop or slow down the line if they find any issues.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mormon Church has misled members on $100 billion tax-exempt investment fund, whistleblower alleges, Jon Swaine, Douglas MacMillan and Michelle Boorstein​, Dec. 16, 2019. An ex-investment manager accused the church of stockpiling surplus donations from members instead of using them for charitable works, according to a copy of his complaint to the IRS.

A former investment manager alleges in a whistleblower complaint to the Internal Revenue Service that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has amassed about $100 billion in accounts intended for charitable purposes, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by The Washington Post.

The confidential document, received by the IRS on Nov. 21, accuses church leaders of misleading members — and possibly breaching federal tax rules — by stockpiling their surplus donations instead of using them for charitable works. It also accuses church leaders of using the tax-exempt donations to prop up a pair of businesses.

The complaint was filed by David A. Nielsen, a 41-year-old Mormon who worked until September as a senior portfolio manager at the church’s investment division, a company named Ensign Peak Advisors that is based near the church’s headquarters.

Nonprofit organizations, including religious groups, are exempted in the United States from paying taxes on their income. Ensign is registered with authorities as a supporting organization and integrated auxiliary of the Mormon Church. This permits it to operate as a nonprofit and to make money largely free from U.S. taxes.

 World News

washington post logoWashington Post, They built this Chinese boomtown. It left them dying of lung disease with nowhere to turn, Gerry Shih, Dec. 16, 2019. Incurable silicosis has ravaged the hundreds of workers who drilled the bedrock for Shenzhen in the early 1990s. The city, one ailing man said, was “built on our bones.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Tear Gas, Beatings, Fire: Protests Over Citizenship Law Grip India, Jeffrey Gettleman, Dec. 16, 2019. Several people have been killed in the unrest after lawmakers passed a contentious measure that would give special treatment to non-Muslim migrants. Furious protests against a new citizenship law continued to erupt across India on Monday, provoking a harsh security response and presenting the most widespread challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he came to power five years ago.

india flag mapOn Sunday, police officers stormed a predominantly Muslim university in New Delhi, the capital, firing tear gas into a library where students had sought refuge, and beating up dozens.

The protests have gripped many major Indian cities and are a reaction to the Indian Parliament’s decision last week to pass a contentious measure that would give special treatment to Hindu and other non-Muslim migrants in India. Critics have called the measure blatantly discriminatory and a blow to India’s foundation as a secular democracy.

The law is a core piece of a Hindu-centric agenda pursued by Mr. Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, and many analysts predicted trouble. India’s large Muslim minority, around 200 million people, has become increasingly fearful, certain that many of Mr. Modi’s recent initiatives are intended to marginalize them.

U.S. 2020 Politics

ny times logoelizabeth warren cfpbNew York Times, Elizabeth Warren (right) and Bernie Sanders Have a Problem: Each Other, Jonathan Martin, Dec. 16, 2019. They’ve abided by a de facto nonaggression pact. But to win the Democratic nomination, one must prevail over the other by consolidating the left.

ny times logoNew York Times, There Are Economic Warning Signs for Trump in the Midwest, Ben Casselman and Karl Russell, Dec. 16, 2019. The U.S. economy found its footing after a summer recession scare, but the Midwest is still stumbling.

Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, U.N. climate talks end with hard feelings, few results and new doubts about global unity, Brady Dennis and Chico Harlan​, Dec. 16, 2019 (print ed.). Delegates from nearly 200 nations wrestled for more than 40 hours past their planned deadline, even as workers broke down parts of the conference hall.

Global climate talks lurched to an end here Sunday with finger pointing, accusations of failure and fresh doubts about the world's collective resolve to slow the warming of the planet — at a moment when scientists say time is running out for humans to avert steadily worsening climate disasters.

UN logoAfter more than two weeks of negotiations, punctuated by raucous protests and constant reminders about the need to move faster, bleary-eyed negotiators barely mustered enthusiasm for the comprise they had patched together, while raising grievances about the many issues that remain unresolved.

At a gathering where the mantra “Time for Action” was plastered throughout the hallways and on the walls, the talks failed to achieve their primary goals. Central among them: convincing the world’s largest carbon-emitting countries to pledge to more aggressively tackle climate change beginning in 2020.

Corporate Rip-Offs?

washington post logoWashington Post, Sackler family transferred $1.36 billion in Purdue Pharma profits overseas, company says in court filing, Christopher Rowland​, Dec. 16, 2019. The bankruptcy court filing disclosed total cash transfers out of the OxyContin manufacturer of more than $10 billion. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Corporations paid 11.3 percent tax rate last year, in steep drop under Trump’s tax law, think tank says, Jeff Stein​, Dec. 16, 2019. The 2017 GOP tax law lowered irs logothe U.S. corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, but in practice large companies often pay far less than that because of deductions, tax breaks and other loopholes.

About 400 of America’s largest corporations paid an average federal tax rate of about 11 percent on their profits last year, roughly half the official rate established under President Trump’s 2017 tax law, according to a report released Monday.

The 2017 tax law lowered the U.S. corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, but in practice large companies often pay far less than that due to deductions, tax breaks and other loopholes.

Media News

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The number of journalists imprisoned remains at record highs. Trump isn’t helping, Editorial Board​, Dec. 16, 2019 (print ed.). The latest study by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) shows that the number of journalists imprisoned for their work in 2019 remains at record highs. China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the worst jailers, followed by Eritrea, Vietnam and Iran.

Overall, there are 250 journalists in jail for their work, compared with 255 a year earlier, not much below the peak of 273 in 2016. These are just the journalists incarcerated as of Dec. 1 and do not include many more, probably thousands, who were detained for shorter periods, violently assaulted, wiretapped, surveilled, harassed, smeared or intimidated by the authorities. Add to that the artists, writers, poets and activists who were victims of the same abuse by governments, and the numbers swell more. In this digital age, the old boundaries blur; for example, Raif Badawi, one of 26 journalists identified by CPJ in Saudi Arabia’s jails, was a blogger who created a discussion forum for liberal views about the kingdom. For that he has been sitting in a cell since 2012.

Sadly, “enemy of the people,” the vicious Stalin-era label that led to arbitrary arrest, followed by penal colony banishment or execution, appears to be used more and more often as a companion to “fake news.” President Trump set a bad example by throwing it about carelessly. Now other world leaders who have no use for democracy are copying this insidious tactic. Freedom House pointed out recently, in another study, how press freedom is receding even in nations that are democracies. “Elected leaders in many democracies, who should be press freedom’s staunchest defenders, have made explicit attempts to silence critical media voices and strengthen outlets that serve up favorable coverage,” Freedom House concluded.

The news media is a vital part of civil society, the tugging and pulling between people and their leaders, and the media’s health is absolutely critical to the health of democracy. The CPJ report is added evidence of a global retreat from democratic values and norms. Once upon a time, the United States attempted to be a beacon for those standards. A word to an ally such as Egypt, which receives billions in U.S. aid, might open the jail cell doors. But if the word isn’t spoken, then what? That’s where we are today.

Zero Hedge, New WikiLeaks Bombshell: 20 Inspectors Dissent From Syria Chemical Attack Narrative, Tyler Durden (pen name), Dec. 14, 2019. Late Saturday WikiLeaks released more documents https://wikileaks.org/opcw-douma/ which contradict the US narrative on Assad's use of chemical weapons, specifically related to the April 7, 2018 Douma incident, which resulted in a major US and allied tomahawk missile and air strike campaign on dozens of targets in Damascus.

wikileaks logo2The leaked documents, including internal emails of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) — which investigated the Douma site — reveal mass dissent within the UN-authorized chemical weapons watchdog organization's ranks over conclusions previously reached by the international body which pointed to Syrian government culpability. It's part of a growing avalanche of dissent memos and documents casting the West's push for war in Syria in doubt (which had resulted in two major US and allied attacks on Syria).

This newly released batch, WikiLeaks reports, includes a memo stating 20 inspectors feel that the officially released version of the OPCW's report on Douma “did not reflect the views of the team members that deployed to [Syria]”. This comes amid widespread allegations US officials brought immense pressure to bear on the organization.

ny times logoNew York Times, Black Women Now Hold Crowns in 5 Major Beauty Pageants, Mihir Zaveri, Dec. 16, 2019 (print ed.). Toni-Ann Singh of Jamaica was crowned Miss World on Saturday, marking the first time that black women have simultaneously held the titles of five of the world’s top beauty pageants. Her victory underscored what was already a watershed year in pageantry, which for decades struggled with racism, segregation and gender stereotyping.

ny times logoNew York Times, 2020 Campaigns Throw Their Hands Up on Disinformation, Davey Alba, Updated Dec. 16, 2019. Few politicians have teams to spot false statements about them online, or to fight back before it spreads.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosIn 2018, Lisa Kaplan assembled a small team inside the re-election campaign for Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine. Wary of how Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, it set out to find and respond to political disinformation online.

The team noticed some false statements shared by voters, and traced the language back to Facebook pages with names like “Boycott The NFL 2018.” It alerted Facebook, and some pages were removed. The people behind the posts, operating from places like Israel and Nigeria, had misled the company about their identity.

Today, Ms. Kaplan said, she knows of no campaigns, including among the 2020 presidential candidates, that have similar teams dedicated to spotting and pushing back on disinformation.

They may “wake up the day after the election and say, ‘Oh, no, the Russians stole another one,’” she said.

Dec. 15

Impeachment Headlines 

 

Impeachment Coverage Noted Above 

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate GOP accused of violating oath to be impartial jurors, Karoun Demirjian and Steven Mufson, Dec. 15, 2019. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week that he was working in “total coordination” with the White House — something a top Democrat said was akin to “the foreman of the jury saying he’s going to work hand in glove with the defense attorney.”

• Freshman Democrats push for former GOP Congressman Justin Amash as impeachment manager

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Impeachment Process Is Barely Functioning, Elizabeth Drew, right, Dec. 15, 2019. Hyperpartisan politics and an implacable president may break Congress’s ability to check him. When the process of impeachment drove President Richard Nixon from office in 1974, there was widespread celebration that “the system worked.” But the 1974 impeachment process may turn out to have been unique, a model for how it should work that has yet to be replicated — and perhaps never will be.

elizabeth drewThe current proceedings have demonstrated how fragile the Constitution’s impeachment clause is. The idea of the clause was to hold a president accountable for misdeeds between elections; but it’s now clearer than ever that it doesn’t work very well in the context of a very partisan political atmosphere.

That’s because the founders didn’t anticipate political parties, or “factions,” much less the power they would gain. James Madison pointed out in Federalist No. 51 that men aren’t angels, and so there needed to be a check on a president’s power — in addition to the voters’ decision every four years. In 1974, the constitutional system held while a president tried to assert, unsuccessfully, that he wasn’t accountable to Congress or the courts. But now the impeachment process is barely functioning, and it’s not difficult to envision it breaking down completely.

richard nixon desk archivesToday, there’s a president who feels free to completely stonewall an impeachment inquiry. Even Nixon, left, did not deem the entire process illegitimate. Yes, he tried to hold back damning recordings of Oval Office conversations, but when he was overruled by the Supreme Court he turned the tapes over to Congress. He also held back some documents from the House Judiciary Committee — an act that formed the basis of an article of impeachment against him. But he allowed his aides to appear before the Senate Watergate Committee, helping to seal his own doom.

Elizabeth Drew, a political journalist who for many years covered Washington for The New Yorker, is the author of “Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mitch McConnell is blowing smoke, Bill Palmer, Dec. 15, 2019.  In what amounts to at least his fifth publicly stated iteration of his Senate impeachment trial strategy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced that he’s going to coordinate with the White House Counsel to make sure that the trial goes precisely how Donald Trump wants it to go. Legal scholars, pundits, and the public are naturally crying foul. Here’s the thing, though: McConnell is just blowing smoke to test the headwinds.

bill palmer report logo headerMitch McConnell is many things, all of them negative – but he’s not stupid. If he had already made up his mind to conspire with the Trump regime with regard to the Senate impeachment trial, he would gain nothing by announcing it in advance, as he’d simply be making himself look corrupt for no reason. So he wouldn’t be announcing it, he’d just be doing it.

mitch mcconnell elevator getty croppedThere are only two reasons for McConnell, right, to announce in advance that he’s planning to corruptly conspire with Trump on impeachment: The first is that he’s trying to gauge just how much blowback he’ll face if he actually goes through with it, and if it’s the kind of blowback that could cost him the Senate majority in 2020. The second is that McConnell is trying to scare Democrats and liberals into paralysis by continuing to float scary doomsday fantasies as if they were foregone conclusions.

At one point Mitch McConnell announced that he would hold a very short impeachment trial with no witnesses and an automatic acquittal. At another point he announced he would mount a rigorous defense of Trump that would be held six days a week. Now he’s announcing that he’s going to do whatever Trump asks him to do with impeachment. These things can’t all be true. Yet each time McConnell blows a different kind of impeachment smoke, many people on the left take it as if it were absolute fact.

When it comes to what Mitch McConnell is saying about the Senate impeachment trial right now, the best thing anyone can do is to simply ignore him. We don’t know what he’ll do when it comes to the trial. He clearly doesn’t know yet either. He’s just throwing things at the wall to try to gauge what might fly, and what he can scare us with. None of what McConnell is saying right now has anything to do with how this will actually end up playing out. Just tune him out.

CNN / State of the Union, Tapper to Paul: You really think Trump cares about corruption? Dec. 15, 2019 (5:17 min. video). CNN's Jake Tapper presses Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) after Paul defends President Trump's motivation for withholding US aid to Ukraine as a way to root out government corruption, rather than to investigate his political rival, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Amid adversity and missteps, Biden’s resilience has been one theme of 2019, Dan Balz, Dec. 15, 2019 (print ed.). The story of Biden for most of the year has been written as a glass-half-empty narrative. But if Iowa falls into Biden’s column, it would instantly change the way everyone looks at the 2020 field and the potential outcomes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge orders removal of up to 234,000 people from voter list in swing state, Marisa Iati, Dec. 15, 2019 (print ed.). Wisconsin elected Donald Trump by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016, causing Republicans and Democrats alike to closely watch this attempt to purge voters from the rolls.

A Wisconsin judge ordered the state to take as many as 234,000 people off its registered-voter list Friday because they may have moved — a decision that could impede residents of this swing state from voting in next year’s presidential election.

The case centers on a letter that the state Elections Commission sent in October to hundreds of thousands of voters, asking them to respond if they were still at that address or to update their registrations if they had moved.

republican elephant logoConservatives filed a lawsuit alleging that to avoid fraud, the commission should have thrown out the registrations of voters who did not respond to the mailing within 30 days, the Associated Press reported. The Elections Commission, composed of three Republicans and three Democrats, is challenging the suit by arguing that it has the legal power to manage the registered voter list and that removing people now would cause confusion if some of them had not actually moved.

President Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. Republicans and Democrats alike are closely watching this court case for its potential impact in 2020, while liberals worry that the voters who would be removed are more likely to be Democrats.

Some of the highest percentages of voters whose registrations were on the line were in Milwaukee, Madison and areas with college campuses, where residents tend to vote Democratic, an analysis by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found. More than half of the Elections Commission’s letters went to municipalities where Democrat Hillary Clinton won more votes than Trump in 2016, the newspaper reported.

The commission had planned to throw out voters’ registrations in April 2021 if they had not responded or voted by then, but the Journal Sentinel reported that Ozaukee County Judge Paul Malloy’s decision meant they probably will be removed before the presidential election. The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Elections Commission have said they plan to appeal the ruling, according to the Journal Sentinel. The court, located in Port Washington, WI, is one of 72 circuit courts in the state.

World News

djt saudi orb abdel al sissi salman

Donald Trump is shown on his first overseas visit as president in 2017 with leaders of the host nation, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.

SouthFront, Saudi Aramco To Invest In Syria’s Northeastern Oil Fields Under U.S. Protection – Report, Staff report, Dec. 15, 2019. Saudi oil giant Aramco is planning to invest in one of Syria’s largest oil fields in the governorate of Deir Ezzor, the local Deir Ezzor 24 blog reported on November 14.

According to the blog, which is well-known for its connections in Deir Ezzor, a team of Aramco’s experts has already visited and inspected the al-Omar oil fields in southeastern Deir Ezzor. “The investment will be done through contracts that will be signed by Aramco and the U.S. government, whose forces control the majority of oil and Gas fields in northeast Syria,” Deir Ezzor 24 quoted a source as saying.

The Pentagon had announced that its keeping 500 U.S. troops in eastern Syria to “guard” oil fields in northern al-Hasakah and southeast Deir Ezzor.

The U.S., whose military presence in Syria is illegal under the country’s laws and international laws, has no right what so ever to grant investments in the eastern region’s oil. Many experts, including in the U.S. itself, had warned that such a step can be considered plunder, which amounts to a war crime.

Last month, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) carried out a series of pinpoint strikes on oil smuggling facilities near the Turkish-occupied city of Jarabulus in northern Aleppo. Back then, a sources in Damascus warned that any attempt to loot or smuggle Syrian oil will be met with a similar measure.

If Aramco indeed moves to invest Syria’s oil through illegal contracts with the U.S, without the consent of Damascus, Saudi Arabia could find itself in a serious crisis with Syria and its allies.

Afghanistan Secret Papers | Part 6 djt afghan visit 11 28 2019 ap alex brandon Custom 2

President Donald Trump with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani (left) while addressing members of the military during a surprise Thanksgiving visit to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. war on drugs in Afghanistan has imploded at nearly every turn, Craig Whitlock, Dec. 15, 2019 (print ed.). Of all the failures in Afghanistan, the war on drugs has been perhaps the most feckless, according to a cache of confidential government interviews and other documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Since 2001, the United States has spent about $9 billion on a dizzying array of programs to deter Afghanistan from supplying the world with heroin. In dozens of interviews, however, key players in the anti-narcotics campaign acknowledged that none of the measures have worked and that, in many cases, they have made things worse.

Mohammed Ehsan Zia, a former Afghan cabinet minister in charge of rural development programs, told U.S. government interviewers that the United States and other NATO countries never settled on an effective strategy and just threw money at the opium problem. He said they constantly changed policies and relied on a carousel of consultants who were ignorant about Afghanistan.

U.S. Military Justice / Rules

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Secretly Expelled Chinese Officials After Breach of Military Base, Staff report, Dec. 15, 2019. The expulsions appear to be the first of Chinese diplomats suspected of espionage in more than 30 years, adding to tensions between the two countries.

washington post logoWashington Post, Military investigating possible ‘white power’ gestures by students on ESPN at rivalry game, Cindy Boren​, Dec. 15, 2019. The incident involved two West Point cadets and one Naval Academy midshipman who were behind ESPN’s Rece Davis as he reported on the sideline in Philadelphia.

The gesture, which is open to interpretation, resembles the common one used to indicate “okay,” but with the hand pointing downward to form a W and P for “white power.” In September, it was moved from a trolling gesture to a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League, which maintains a database of hate symbols. In doing so, the ADL was careful to note on its website that the gesture has multiple meanings.

Last week, U.S. Military Academy officials dropped the “GFBD” slogan used by the football team after learning of its association with white supremacist groups. An abbreviation for the phrase “God forgives, brothers don’t,” it has appeared for several years on a rally flag carried into games by the Black Knights, and it reportedly was featured on some team-related merchandise. A hashtag, #GFBD, has also been used online by supporters of the team.

DC Public Defenders

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The government wants to move the D.C. public defender’s office. That could be disastrous, Radley Balko (columnist and author of the 2017 book The Rise of the Warrior Cop), Dec. 15, 2019. A seemingly mundane radley balko warrior coverbureaucratic decision could hurt indigent defendants for years to come. Since the late 1990s, PDS, the D.C. Pretrial Services Agency (PSA) and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), which handles probation and parole, have shared office space at two buildings along Indiana Avenue, a little more than a block from the D.C. Superior Court, where the city’s criminal cases are adjudicated.

But the lease for PDS’s current office space expires next year (the other two agencies’ leases expire in 2021 and 2023), and because the federal government has jurisdiction over much of the city’s government, the General Services Administration (GSA) controls whether to renew the current lease or move the agencies to a new building. According to court filings, all three agencies are content with their current locations, with no substantive complaints about the buildings or how they’re managed. With the PDS’s lease up, though, the GSA asked for bids for a new office.

with the new PDS lease, the GSA stipulated that bids come from a radius of 1.1 miles from the courthouse. After putting out the initial guidelines, the GSA also added a mandate that all three agencies be housed in the same building, which prevents the owner of the current buildings from even submitting a bid. (The owner has since filed a lawsuit challenging the guidelines.) On background, sources familiar with the process say these guidelines make it all but certain the lease will go to a building a mile or more from the courthouse. The new lease is expected to last for 20 years. (The GSA declined to comment for this story.)

It’s hard to come up with a satisfactory explanation for why the GSA would prioritize courthouse proximity for prosecutors but not for defense attorneys, and it’s tempting to speculate about some nefarious force driving the GSA’s actions, such as political disdain for public defenders or pressure to steer the lease toward a well-connected building owner.

U.S. Media  / Antitrust Trends

ny times logoNew York Times, Prime Leverage: How Amazon Wields Power in the Technology World, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Dec. 15, 2019. Software start-ups have a phrase for what Amazon is doing to them: “strip-mining” them of their innovations. This has fueled scrutiny of whether Amazon is abusing its market dominance and engaging in anticompetitive behavior.

Not since the mid-1990s, when Microsoft dominated the personal computer industry with Windows, has a technology platform instilled such fear in competitors as Amazon is now doing with its cloud computing arm. Its feud with Elastic illustrates how it brandishes power in that technical world.

amazon logo smallWhile cloud computing may appear obscure and wonky, it underlies much of the internet. It has grown into one of the technology industry’s largest and most lucrative businesses, offering computing power and software to companies. And Amazon is its single-biggest provider.

Amazon has used its cloud computing arm — called Amazon Web Services, or A.W.S. for short — to copy and integrate software that other tech companies pioneered. It has given an edge to its own services by making them more convenient to use, burying rival offerings and bundling discounts to make its products less expensive. The moves drive customers toward Amazon while those responsible for the software may not see a cent.

Even so, smaller rivals say they have little choice but to work with Amazon. Given the company’s broad reach with customers, start-ups often agree to its restrictions on promoting their own products and voluntarily share client and product information with it. For the privilege of selling through A.W.S., the start-ups pay a cut of their sales back to Amazon.

Trump Finances

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump freaks out over Supreme Court announcement about his tax returns, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 15, 2019. On Friday, the Supreme Court announced that it’s bill palmertaking up the case of whether Donald Trump’s accounting firm must give his tax returns to House Democrats and a New York grand jury. While the ruling may not come down until as late as June of 2020, Palmer Report pointed out it’s likely to go against Trump (think John Roberts and Obamacare), and that the ruling will end up coming down just as we’re heading into the 2020 general election cycle.

bill palmer report logo headerWhile it would have been even worse for Donald Trump if the Supreme Court had announced that it wasn’t going to take up the case at all, this is still bad news for him. The only way this could have gone well for him would have been if the high court decided to put off the decision until after the election. Sure enough, Trump is freaking out about it. We know this because he’s suddenly kissing the backside of erratic Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Trump posted this tweet: “After watching the disgraceful way that a wonderful man, Brett Kavanaugh, was treated by the Democrats, and now seeing first hand how these same brett kavanaughRadical Left, Do Nothing Dems are treating the whole Impeachment Hoax, I understand why so many Dems are voting Republican!” Given the timing, it’s clear that Trump is pandering to Kavanaugh over the tax returns case. Kavanaugh has been voting with the liberals on a number of cases, in the hope that House Democrats won’t refer him for criminal prosecution for perjury once Trump is gone.

Donald Trump is correct to fear that Kavanaugh could end up voting against Trump in order to try to save himself. In any case, if Roberts votes against Trump on Trump’s tax returns, then Kavanaugh’s vote won’t matter. It’s clear that Trump is worried about where this is headed. Not only will the ruling impact the 2020 election, it’ll impact the New York grand jury that’s in the process of criminally indicting Trump on state charges.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, 10 years, 179 arrests, no white defendants: DEA tactics face scrutiny in New York, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 15, 2019. Drug Enforcement Administration officials vigorously defend the agency’s use of reverse stings after defense lawyers highlight racial disparity.

U.S. Economy / Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘The grand finale’: Inside Trump’s push to rack up political victories as impeachment looms, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, Dec. 15, 2019 (print ed.). Trump and his allies trumpet the victories as the work of a disciplined president focusing on the needs of the public, while Democrats argue they have forced Trump to hand over sweeping concessions on liberal priorities.

This burst of bipartisan comity is slated to continue in the coming week, with the expected House impeachment vote on Wednesday sandwiched between final passage of the spending and trade deals, along with Senate approval of the massive military package.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why You Shouldn’t Believe Those G.D.P. Numbers, David Leonhardt, david leonhardt thumbright, Dec. 15, 2019. There’s finally momentum for better economic statistics. The Commerce Department will announce the latest G.D.P. numbers on Friday, and they’ll probably be solid. The economy seems to be growing at an annual rate of about 2 percent, which isn’t bad for the 11th year of an expansion.

After the numbers come out, something else will probably happen: Pundits will once again express bafflement about the apparent disconnect between the healthy American economy and the sour national mood.

But there is really no disconnect. The fault — with apologies to Shakespeare — is in our stats, not ourselves.

Americans are dissatisfied, and have been for years, largely because the economy as most people experience it has not been booming. G.D.P. — or gross domestic product, the economy’s total output — keeps on rising, but it no longer tracks the well-being of most Americans. Instead, an outsize share of economic growth flows to the wealthy. And yet G.D.P. is treated as a totemic measure of the country’s prosperity.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. economy shakes free of recession fears in striking turnaround since August, Heather Long​, Dec. 15, 2019. Steady growth is expected because of lower interest rates and the apparent resolution of two trade-related threats.

• Washington Post, North America trade deal hits snag as Mexico objects to U.S. labor inspectors.

Dec. 14

Impeachment Daily Index

jerry nadler close up committee unsourced Custom

 

Impeachment Coverage Noted Above  

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Impeachment Articles Approved by House Panel, Split on Party Lines; Full House Vote Is Expected Next Week, Nicholas Fandos, Dec. 14, 2019 (print ed.). The House Judiciary Committee turned back Republican attempts to kill articles of impeachment in a heated debate. President Trump is the fourth U.S. president to face impeachment by the House for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

U.S. House logoA fiercely divided House Judiciary Committee pushed President Trump to the brink of impeachment on Friday, voting along party lines to approve charges that he abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress.

After a fractious two-day debate steeped in the Constitution and shaped by the realities of a hyperpartisan era in American politics, the Democratic-controlled committee recommended that the House ratify two articles of impeachment against the 45th president. In back-to-back votes just after 10 a.m., they adopted each charge against Mr. Trump by a margin of 23 to 17 over howls of Republican protest.

The partisan result and the contentious debate that preceded it were harbingers of a historic proceeding and vote on the House floor, expected next week, to impeach Mr. Trump, whose nearly three-year tenure has exacerbated the nation’s political divisions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Five questions — and answers — about Trump, Ukraine and impeachment, Elise Viebeck, Dec. 14, 2019 (print ed.). What is the impeachment drama actually about? What do Democrats and Republicans say? What will happen next week — and next year?

Afghanistan Secret Papers

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: There must be a public accounting for the Afghanistan failure, Colbert I. King, at right in file photo, Dec. 14, 2019. What in the world should be done about senior U.S. officials colbert king 2003who failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable?

Those findings appear in a six-part Post investigative series on the Afghanistan war. It took three years, and three federal lawsuits, for The Post to obtain 2,000 pages of internal records on the Afghanistan war. The series laid bare — in stunning, depressing, sickening detail — the gargantuan failures and lies about the longest armed conflict in U.S. history.

The war in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of more than 2,300 U.S. troops. Nearly 21,000 have been wounded in action, and nearly $1 trillion has been squandered on a haphazard nation-building mission that should not have been undertaken in the first place.

U.S. policymakers at the highest levels made possible this enormous waste in lives, treasure and national honor. Are they going to be let off the hook with “oops, sorry, better luck next time” — the attitude that settled over official Washington after the Vietnam and Iraq debacles?

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 23 Soldiers Killed in Insider Attack in Afghanistan, Fahim Abed, Dec. 14, 2019. At least 23 soldiers were killed while they were sleeping on Saturday in an insider attack in eastern Afghanistan, officials said, the latest episode of enemy infiltration that has raised concerns about a new local military force billed as the hope for holding territory recaptured from the Taliban.

The Taliban infiltrator, who was on duty at a military base in Ghazni Province, opened fire on his colleagues, wiping out almost the whole unit, officials said. The attacker then seized all weapons and equipment in the base and joined the insurgency.

Trump Finances supreme court headshots 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court will take up Trump’s broad claims of protection from investigation, Robert Barnes, Dec. 14, 2019 (print ed.). The president has mounted a vigorous effort to protect his financial records from prosecutors and Congress. The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will take up President Trump’s broad claims of protection from investigation, raising the prospect of a landmark election-year ruling on the limits of presidential power.

A New York prosecutor and three Democratic-led congressional committees have won lower-court decisions granting them access to a broad range of Trump’s financial records relating to him personally, his family and his businesses.

Unlike other modern presidents and presidential candidates, Trump has not released his tax returns. He and his personal lawyers have mounted a vigorous effort to keep that information private and defeat attempts to obtain the records from financial institutions and his accounting firm.

supreme court graphic

The Supreme Court’s decision to get involved represents a historic moment that will test the justices and the Constitution’s separation-of-powers design. It is the first time the president’s personal conduct has come before the court, and marks a new phase in the investigations that have dogged his presidency.

The court includes two Trump nominees, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, and it will draw inevitable comparisons with the dramatic decisions on presidential power the court rendered against Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton. In both cases, justices they had nominated to the court voted against them.

Trump attorney William S. Consovoy has argued that while in the White House, Trump has “temporary presidential immunity” not just from prosecution, but also from investigation. At the appeals court hearing in New York, Consovoy said in response to a judge’s question that the president, for as long as he is in office, could not be investigated even for shooting someone on the streets of Manhattan.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s tax returns just officially became a 2020 nightmare for him, Bill Palmer, Dec. 14, 2019. The Supreme Court decided yesterday to take up the case of Donald Trump’s tax returns. This is not the best case scenario for House Democrats, who were hoping the Supreme Court would decline to take up the case, which would have resulted in Trump’s accountant turning over his tax returns immediately. But what’s interesting about this development is the timeframe for the case.

bill palmer report logo headerThe mainstream media is saying it doesn’t think the Supreme Court will take up the case until June of 2020. We don’t expect it to take that long, considering the historic importance and unique urgency of the case. But even if it does take until June, the ruling will come down right around the start of the 2020 general election cycle.

If the Supreme Court rules that Donald Trump’s tax returns must be turned over, House Democrats will be able to expose Trump’s financial crimes and illicit foreign ties at the height of the 2020 election. Considering how John Roberts likes to play both sides, we think there’s a strong chance the ruling will go this way. But even if the Supreme Court rules that his returns don’t have to be turned over, it’ll serve as a timely reminder to the voting public that he’s bending over backward to hide his dirty financial secrets.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: What Brexit and Trump Mean for Globalization, Peter S. Goodman, Dec. 14, 2019 (print ed.). The Conservative landslide in Britain leaves no doubt that today, national interests are supreme and globalization is suspect.

ny times logoNew York Times, He Was One of Mexico’s Deadliest Assassins. Then He Turned on His Cartel, Azam Ahmed and Paulina Villegas, Dec. 14, 2019. “They took away everything left in me that was human and made me a monster,” said the hit man. Within a few years, he became one of the deadliest assassins in the Mexican state of Morelos, an instrument of the cartels tearing the nation apart. By 2017, at only 22 years old, he had taken part in more than 100 murders, he said. The authorities have confirmed nearly two dozen of them in Morelos alone.

The recruits filed into a clearing, where a group of trainers with the stern bearing of drill sergeants stood in a tight row, hiding something.

“How many of you have killed someone before?” one of the instructors asked. A few hands shot up.

The trainers separated, revealing a naked corpse face up in the grass. One thrust a machete into the nearest man’s hand.

“Dismember that body,” he ordered.

The recruit froze. The instructor waited, then walked up behind the terrified recruit and fired a bullet into his head, killing him. Next, he passed the blade to a lanky teenager while the others watched, dumbfounded.

The teenager didn’t hesitate. Offered the chance to prove that he could be an assassin — a sicario — he seized it, he said. A chance at money, power and what he craved most, respect. To be feared in a place where fear was currency.

“I wanted to be a psychopath, to kill without mercy and be the most feared sicario in the world,” he said, describing the scene.

Like the other recruits, he had been sent by a drug cartel known as Guerreros Unidos to a training camp in the mountains. He envisioned field exercises, morning runs, target practice. Now, standing over the body, he was just trying to suppress an urge to vomit.

Inside DC

World Crisis Radio, Weekend Update: Impeachment Time Here In Washington: A Christmas Gift to the Nation, Host: Dr. Webster G. Tarpley, author and historian, Dec. 14, 2019 (95:22 mins.). What might and should happen to the reactionary Republican Party. As of this morning, Trump is now under the gun of two articles of impeachment. "We were expecting organized hooliganism from the plutocratic camp and there was some of this....From Republicans, there was nothing but disgusting toadyism to the Cult of Trump. It used to be a political party."

washington post logoWashington Post, Winners and losers in Trump’s ‘phase one’ China trade deal, Heather Long, Dec. 14, 2019. Farmers and tech companies are among the beneficiaries, while China “hawks” and President Trump’s “MAGA” trade agenda took a hit.

President Trump and China finally agreed to a partial trade deal on Friday, putting the 21-month trade war between the world’s two largest economies on pause — for now. The full text of the deal has not been made public, but Trump’s team and Chinese officials confirmed that the president agreed to scale back some tariffs in exchange for China buying about $200 billion more of U.S. goods in the next two years and opening up to U.S. financial firms.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Trump campaign aide notches victory after inspector general outlines FBI’s surveillance missteps, Devlin Barrett, Dec. 14, 2019. Working mostly without a lawyer, Carter Page (shown above) was the only one of four initial suspects in the Russia investigation who was never charged or convicted.

Carter Page fought the law, and the law lost.

The former Trump campaign adviser was one of the first four suspects identified by the FBI in the early days of its investigation of President Trump’s 2016 campaign aides, and the only one of that group to have his electronic communications secretly targeted by a U.S. foreign intelligence court. But when the dust settled three years later, he was also the only one of the four without a criminal conviction — a feat all the more remarkable in that he did much of it without a lawyer.

Former Trump national security adviser Michael T. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during a relatively brief interview at the White House in early 2017. Former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to agents in a separate interview that same month. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty in one case and was convicted in another for a host of financial crimes.

• After exposing surveillance errors in Trump probe, inspector general looks for a pattern

U.S. 2020 Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats plan ‘unprecedented’ effort to flip state legislative chambers in 2020 races, Tim Craig, Dec. 14, 2019. An array of Democratic groups say they will spend millions to win traditionally low-profile state-level races from Florida to Michigan, as congressional redistricting looms.

ny times logoNew York Times, Representative Jeff Van Drew, Anti-Impeachment Democrat, Considering Switching Parties, Jonathan Martin and Nick Corasaniti, Dec. 14, 2019. Representative Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, a moderate Democrat who is among his party’s staunchest opponents of impeaching President Trump, is considering switching parties and could make an announcement as soon as next week, just as the House is voting on impeachment.

jeff van drewMr. Van Drew, right, has had discussions with senior Trump advisers about securing the president’s support for his switch, a blessing that could help him avert a primary challenge next year in what would be his new party, according to two Democrats and one Republican who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Van Drew’s benefit to Mr. Trump would be more immediate: the high-profile defection would help soften the blow of becoming the third president ever to be impeached.

Conversations between Mr. Van Drew and top advisers to Mr. Trump intensified late last week, according to a Republican familiar with the discussions, with the New Jersey freshman making clear he was nervous about losing his seat, either in a Democratic primary or the general election.

A freshman lawmaker from a historically Republican-leaning southern New Jersey district, Mr. Van Drew has already made clear he won’t support impeachment, which has triggered talk of a liberal primary challenger.

Mr. Van Drew was one of two House Democrats who opposed the investigation into Mr. Trump. That stance has made him the target of sharp criticism from progressive activists and protests outside his district office. Perhaps more notable, his state’s machine-aligned Democratic leaders have also gone public with their own discomfort over his stance.

Dec. 13

World News Headlines

Impeachment Daily Index

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Impeachment Coverage Noted Above

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell’s vow of ‘total coordination’ with White House on Senate trial angers Democrats, Mike DeBonis, Dec. 13, 2019. "I think it was pretty bad for who is mitch mcconnell elevator getty croppedessentially the foreman of the jury to announce the verdict,” said Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.). In a late Thursday interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, McConnell (R-Ky.), right, all but guaranteed a Trump acquittal, saying there was “zero chance” the president would be removed from office, and promised “total coordination” with the White House and Trump’s defense team.

“The case is so darn weak coming over from the House,” he said. “We all know how it’s going to end.”

Those remarks infuriated House Democrats as they voted to advance the fourth-ever set of presidential impeachment articles toward a Senate trial where, they said, the fix appeared to be in.

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: Democracy Grief Is Real, Michelle Goldberg, right, Dec. 13, 2019. Seeing what Trump is doing to America, many find it hard to fight off despair. Lately, I think I’m experiencing democracy grief. For anyone who was, like me, born after the civil rights movement finally made democracy in America real, liberal democracy has always been part of the climate, as easy to take for granted as clean air or the changing of the seasons. When I contemplate the sort of illiberal oligarchy that would await my children should Donald Trump win another term, the scale of the loss feels so vast that I can barely process it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Impeachment is rare. Republicans’ histrionics are historic, Dana Milbank, right, Dec. 13, 2019. This impeachment is historic, in the sense that it is rare, only the third in the nation’s history. But it seems more like an extension of politics as usual. Republicans aimed for this: If they could turn the proceedings into a circus, dana milbank Customthey could discredit President Trump’s impeachment. Maybe they succeeded, because the Fox News-viewing public remains steadfastly opposed.

But in the process they have bludgeoned not just this impeachment but impeachment itself, the powers of Congress, the legitimacy of government, the law and any sense of objective truth. What’s historic about this moment is the near-complete dysfunction of, and loss of confidence in, American democracy.

World News

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ny times logoNew York Times, Brexit Is Going to Get Done. But on Whose Terms? Mark Landler, Dec. 13, 2019. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s landslide election victory clarifies British politics in one important respect: Efforts to reverse the Brexit referendum are now dead. Britain will leave the European Union next month. But on what terms it will do so remains unclear, perhaps even more so in the wake of the election.

Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party rode a wave of frustrated working-class voters to a decisive majority in Parliament, radically realigning British politics and reshaping Britain’s oldest party. Crucially, that new coalition of voters may also shape the trade agreement that Mr. Johnson (shown above) must now negotiate with Europe — and hence, the nature of his Brexit.

united kingdom flagThe voters who gave Mr. Johnson the largest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher share few of the free-trade or deregulatory instincts of the Brexiteers who masterminded Mr. Johnson’s campaign or filled his last cabinet. These voters want safe jobs, protection from imports and the restoration of a Britain that vanished in the contrails of the global economy.

That is worlds away from the agile, economically open, lightly regulated Britain that Mr. Johnson’s Downing Street brain trust envisions — Singapore-on-Thames, to use their preferred marketing slogan. Reconciling those two models will be difficult, if not impossible, even for an ideologically flexible prime minister.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: The U.K. will leave the European Union. Does that mean Scotland will leave the U.K.? Coree Brown Swan, Dec. 13, 2019.​ While the Scottish National Party, a center-left party seeking Scottish independence, did not replicate the 2015 landslide in which it won all but three Scottish seats in the House of Commons, it did extraordinarily well, taking all but one Labour seat, knocking the Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson out of her seat and halving the Conservative count.

The SNP ran on two key messages in this election: a pledge to stop Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brexit, backing another referendum vote on the E.U., and a call to bolster their mandate for another referendum on Scottish independence. The SNP-controlled government in Scotland held a referendum in 2014, which lost with 45 percent of the vote.

The ability to make constitutional changes remains within the preserve of Westminster, unlike other powers devolved to the Scottish government. A legally binding referendum on independence is likely to require a Section 30 order transferring this power from the U.K. to Scotland, as it did in 2014, when the referendum was the result of a negotiation between then-Prime Minister David Cameron and then-Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine’s Leader, Wiser to Washington, Seeks New Outreach to Trump, Kenneth P. Vogel and Andrew E. Kramer, Dec. 13, 2019. President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, still needs backing from the administration. He is proposing a new ambassador and weighing hiring lobbyists to build better ties.

A Secret History of Afghan War | Part 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Afghan security forces, despite years of training, were dogged by incompetence and corruption (Part 5), Craig Whitlock, Dec. 13, 2019. In documents The Post obtained, U.S., NATO and Afghan officials depicted Afghan security forces as incompetent, unmotivated, poorly trained, corrupt and riddled with deserters and infiltrators — and unable to defeat the Taliban on their own.

  • Washington Post, 25 essential documents from The Afghanistan Papers, Craig Whitlock and Danielle Rindler, Dec. 13, 2019.​

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Agree on One Thing: They’re Very, Very Nervous, Sarah Lyall, Dec. 13, 2019. “Trump anxiety disorder” has morphed into anxiety about everything for America’s Democrats. Impeachment isn’t helping. The past three years have not been easy for the political fortunes or the emotional health of America’s Democrats. To the extent they feel optimistic about anything, they have been waiting for the 2020 election in the way inhabitants of a storm-ravaged city might look toward the end of hurricane season — as an democratic donkey logoopportunity to restore order not just to their fractured physical world, but to their battered psyches.

Why, then, even with the potential catharsis of impeachment proceedings against President Trump underway, do so many feel so awful?

“My big fear is that we are not coalescing around one candidate, and I don’t know in the end if there’s enough people who will come out and vote,” said Mac Macnair, a Democrat who lives in a deep-red county in rural Georgia. “Four years is as long as I can go, but eight years — we won’t even have an America left.”

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: The Party That Ruined the Planet, Paul Krugman, right, Dec. 13, 2019. Republican climate denial is even scarier than Trumpism. revelation that the president has abused his power for personal gain. If you didn’t see that coming from the day Donald Trump was elected, you weren’t paying attention.

No, the real revelation has been the utter depravity of the Republican Party. Essentially every elected or appointed official in that party has chosen to defend Trump by buying into crazy, debunked conspiracy theories. That is, one of America’s two major parties is beyond redemption; given that, it’s hard to see how democracy can long endure, even if Trump is defeated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Several Democratic candidates threaten to skip next week’s presidential debate in Los Angeles, Amy B Wang​, Dec. 13, 2019. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Joe Biden and Andrew Yang said they would not cross picket lines amid a labor dispute at Loyola Marymount University.

ny times logoNew York Times, Poll Watch: Elizabeth Warren Is Fighting a Two-Flank War, While she remains a leading candidate, Giovanni Russonello, Dec. 13, 2019. Ms. Warren’s momentum has slowed in part because she faces threats from both the left and the right.

elizabeth warren cfpbTwo months ago, Senator Elizabeth Warren, right, of Massachusetts was commanding support from about a quarter of Democratic primary voters nationwide, and seemed to be building a coalition that cut across demographics.

While she remains a leading candidate, after a grueling autumn, polling averages show that her support has dipped back into the teens nationwide — as well as in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire — and she is working to regain momentum.

U. S. Crime, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Trump Weaponized the Justice Department’s Inspector General, James B. Stewart, Dec. 13, 2019. The president and his allies have turned investigations into a political tool for use against their enemies. In his report on the origins of the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation, and in testimony before Congress on Wednesday, Inspector General Michael Horowitz of the Department of Justice demolished President Trump’s most sensational allegations about the Russia inquiry: He concluded that the opening of Justice Department log circularthe investigation was lawful and legitimate, that there was no improper “spying” on the Trump campaign and that the F.B.I. wasn’t part of some “deep state” conspiracy to overthrow the president.

That hardly stopped Mr. Trump and his allies. The report “was far worse than expected,” the president asserted — after already predicting it would be “devastating.” “This was an attempted overthrow and a lot of people were in on it and they got caught, they got caught red-handed,” Mr. Trump said in the Cabinet Room at the White House.

Attorney General William Barr was quick to pile on, too: “The inspector general’s report now makes clear that the F.B.I. launched an intrusive investigation of a U. S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” he said in a Justice Department statement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Defeated GOP governor pardoned violent criminals in a spree lawyers are calling an ‘atrocity of justice,’ Kayla Epstein, Matt Bevin is no longer the governor of Kentucky, but his decisions continued to send shock waves through the state’s legal system this week after he issued pardons for hundreds of people, some of whom committed violent offenses.

Bevin issued 428 pardons since his defeat to Democrat Andy Beshear in a close election in November, the Louisville Courier Journal reported. His list includes a man convicted of reckless homicide, a convicted child rapist, a man who murdered his parents at age 16 and a woman who threw her newborn in the trash after giving birth in a flea market outhouse.

He also pardoned Dayton Jones, who was convicted in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy at a party, Kentucky New Era reported.

It is not unusual for governors to issue pardons as they leave office, but Bevin’s actions boggled some of the state’s attorneys, who questioned his judgment.

ny times logoNew York Times, 13-Year-Old Boy Arrested in Killing of Tessa Majors, 18, Barnard Student, Michael Gold, Edgar Sandoval and Ali Watkins, Dec. 13, 2019. The boy was charged with murder, robbery and criminal possession of a weapon, an official said.

The deadly stabbing of an 18-year-old Barnard College student in a park near campus jarred New York City, where residents, especially those in Manhattan, worried that it was a throwback to an era when violent street crime was far more common.

Then on Friday came more unsettling news: A 13-year-old boy was arrested and charged in connection with the murder of the student, Tessa Majors.

According to law enforcement officials, the boy was part of a group that attempted to rob the Ms. Majors as she was walking through Morningside Park in Upper Manhattan. She was killed in a struggle with them. 

djt mike pence igor fruman lev parnas rudy giuliani Custom

President Trump with, from left, Vice President Michael Pence, indicted businessmen Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, and Rudy Giuliani, Trump's private attorney (file photo).

Palmer Report, Oh  Rudy…, Bill Palmer, Dec. 13, 2019. Since returning home from his pointless and self-incriminating trip to Ukraine earlier this week, Rudy Giuliani has been remarkably quiet, at least by his motormouth standards. This has raised the question of whether he’s gone quiet because he’s been cooking up something, or whether he’s gone quiet because he’s been stunned into silence by some bad new development for him. It’s sure starting to look like it’s the latter.

bill palmer report logo headerThe first sign of terrible news for Rudy Giuliani came on Wednesday night, when federal prosecutors asked a judge to revoke the bail of Lev Parnas, citing a million dollar payment that Parnas received from Russia in September. This makes clear that Parnas was on Russia’s payroll when he was conspiring with Rudy in Trump’s Ukraine extortion scandal. This is on top of the earlier revelation that Rudy took a half a million dollar payout from Parnas’ company.

rudy giulianiRudy, right, will have a heck of a time convincing anyone that he didn’t know he was taking Kremlin money from Parnas. In addition, if Parnas’ bail is revoked, it should increase the odds that he cuts a plea deal against Rudy. But now things have taken an even uglier turn. On Thursday night CNN reported that federal prosecutors have expanded their criminal case against Parnas, Rudy, and Igor Fruman to include possible charges of bribing foreign officials. Ouch.

This points to even more serious criminal charges against Parnas, after prosecutors revealed in court earlier this month that a superseding indictment against him with additional criminal charges was very likely. The more serious the case against Parnas, the more likely he flips on Rudy. And if the criminal charges against Rudy end up including something as serious as attempted bribery of a foreign official, it’ll make it a whole lot harder for Donald Trump to convince himself that pardoning Rudy is worth the trouble. More charges will also make it easier for New York State to bring a parallel case as insurance against a federal pardon. Rudy is in trouble.

#MeToo / Media

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Fox News, I Want My Voice Back, Gretchen Carlson, right, Dec. 13, 2019. I still can’t talk about what happened to me because of a nondisclosure agreement. gretchen carlsonWhen my retaliation and sexual harassment complaint against Roger Ailes, the former Fox News chairman and C.E.O., went public in 2016, there were no #MeToo or Times Up movements to help rally support for my cause.

In the years that followed, many more women have found the courage to come forward, calling out Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Harvey Weinstein, and other powerful men accused of abusing their power. When I sued, I could have never known that my story and the stories of other women at Fox would turn into fox news logo Smallboth a television mini-series and a film, and, more important, that I would be prohibited from speaking about these projects.

Three years ago, receiving a public apology from 21st Century Fox and retaining the right to speak about harassment generally felt like big wins. And they were. But had I known my complaint would help ignite such a profound cultural shift and that I would be depicted onscreen, I would have also fought against signing the nondisclosure agreement, or NDA, that prevented me from discussing my experiences while working at Fox News. At the time, I just wanted to bring closure to an ugly chapter in my life; I thought it would, at the most, lead to a week of press attention — not spawn a mini-series, a movie and become part of a global rallying cry.

ny times logorichard jewell posterNew York Times, Clint Eastwood’s ‘Richard Jewell’ Is at the Center of a Media Storm, Marc Tracy, Dec. 13, 2019 (print ed.). The strong showing is vindication for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who now has a chance to put his personal stamp on Britain, beginning with Brexit. As the The film shows the journalist Kathy Scruggs trading sex for a scoop, a depiction that’s been characterized as defamatory and incomplete.

Clint Eastwood received a standing ovation on Tuesday when he was introduced by the Georgia House speaker, David Ralston, for the red-carpet premiere of “Richard Jewell” at the Rialto Center for the Arts in downtown Atlanta. The audience broke into applause again at the climax of the fact-based film Mr. Eastwood directed about the security guard who was suspected by the F.B.I. of planting a bomb at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

The reaction was a contrast to how the film was received Wednesday at a screening arranged by Cox Enterprises, the owner of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, at a theater near the newspaper’s headquarters. During a scene in which a Journal-Constitution reporter is shown offering sex to an F.B.I. agent in exchange for information — a scene the paper has called “false and defamatory” — an audience member hissed.

Dec. 12

Selected Global Headlines

greta thunberg charles lindbergh time covers

Pioneering aviator and folk hero Charles Lindbergh, then 25, Time's previous youngest "Person of the Year," and Greta Thunberg, 16.

Impeachment Daily Index

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Impeachment Coverage Noted Above 

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: House Judiciary Committee Debating Articles of Impeachment, Michael D. Shear, Dec. 12, 2019. Lawmakers are putting the last touches on articles accusing President Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Watch live and follow our reporters’ analysis.

djt nancy pelosiThe chairman of the Judiciary Committee offered an amendment to the impeachment articles, spelling out the “John” in Donald J. Trump, which allows him U.S. House logoto more tightly control the debate on charges that Mr. Trump abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress.

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee moved quickly to try to kill the articles of impeachment against President Trump as the markup got underway, condemning the process as unfair to the president.

Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, offered the first amendment of the day, seeking to strike Article I, which accuses the president of abuse of power. Mr. Jordan said his amendment “strikes Article I, because Article I ignores the truth.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats brace for some defections among moderates, Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis, Dec. 12, 2019. Some Democrats in swing districts are concerned a democratic donkey logovote to impeach President Trump could cost them their seats in November. Two senior Democratic aides said the total could be as many as a half-dozen, while a third said the number could be higher.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: William Barr is unfit to be attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., right, Dec. 12, 2019 (print ed.). As a former line prosecutor, U.S. attorney and judge, I found it alarming to hear Barr comment on an ongoing investigation, led by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, into the origins of the Russia probe. And as someone who spent six years in the office Barr now occupies, it was infuriating to watch him publicly undermine an independent inspector general report — based on an eric holderexhaustive review of the FBI’s conduct — using partisan talking points bearing no resemblance to the facts his own department has uncovered.

 When appropriate and justified, it is the attorney general’s duty to support Justice Department components, ensure their integrity and insulate them from political pressures. His or her ultimate loyalty is not to the president personally, nor even to the executive branch, but to the people — and the Constitution — of the United States.

Career public servants at every level of the Justice Department understand this — as do leaders such as FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Their fidelity to the law and their conduct under pressure are a credit to them and the institutions they serve.

Others, like Durham, are being tested by this moment. I’ve been proud to know John for at least a decade, but I was troubled by his unusual statement disputing the inspector general’s findings. Good reputations are hard-won in the legal profession, but they are fragile; anyone in Durham’s shoes would do well to remember that, in dealing with this administration, many reputations have been irrevocably lost.

This is certainly true of Barr, who was until recently a widely respected lawyer. I and many other Justice veterans were hopeful that he would serve as a responsible steward of the department and a protector of the rule of law.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Wishful Thinking, Bill Palmer, Dec. 12, 2019. The last thing Mitch McConnell wants is for Trump’s impeachment trial to land in his lap at all. There’s no bill palmer report logo headergood way for him to handle it. Sure, he’s going to acquit Trump (unless some smoking gun or first hand witness surfaces in the mean time).

djt mitch mcconnell CustomBut if McConnell, shown at right, holds a very short trial before acquitting Trump, he runs the risk of leaving moderate voters with the impression that Senate Republicans didn’t take the process seriously and should thusly be punished in the 2020 election. If McConnell tries to mount some ridiculous defense of Trump, then he risks leaving those same voters with the impression that Senate Republicans are just as guilty as Trump is.

There’s no good way for Mitch McConnell to handle this, and he knows it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 5 takeaways from the debate, Amber Phillips​, Dec. 12, 2019. One sign that Trump is worried about impeachment? His avalanche of tweets. Republicans are remarkably united. Some Democrats who aren’t on this committee are wavering.

ny times logoNew York Times, From Nixon to Trump, Zoe Lofgren Is Democrats’ Memory on Impeachment, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Dec. 12, 2019 (print ed.). Ms. Lofgren, Democrat of California, is the lone Judiciary Committee member to have participated in all three modern impeachments.

zoe lofgren headshot CustomIn the summer of 1974, a young law student named Zoe Lofgren, working for a member of the House Judiciary Committee, drafted what she thought was an ill-advised article of impeachment charging President Richard M. Nixon with usurping the power of Congress by concealing the bombing of Cambodia.

The committee rejected it. “It didn’t pass and it shouldn’t have passed,” Ms. Lofgren said.

Now Ms. Lofgren, left, is Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a senior lawmaker on the judiciary panel and the panel’s only member to have participated in all three modern presidential impeachments. And much like 45 years ago, she has emerged as a voice of restraint as her party barrels toward a divisive and partisan impeachment of President Trump.

American Civil Liberties Union, Opinion: ACLU Supports Impeachment of President Trump, Staff Report, Dec. 12, 2019. The National Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) adopted a resolution to support impeachment of President Donald J. Trump in a special session to consider the matter.

Having considered the ACLU’s mission and policies concerning the protection and advancement of civil liberties, nonpartisanship, and the extraordinary circumstances in which the ACLU takes a position on the impeachment or removal of a government official, the board voted 55-2 in favor of a resolution.

Trump Russian Influence Probes

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Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Ohr-Steele memos reveal true nature of the Russian oligarch threat to U.S. democracy, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 12, 2019.  Contrary to the conspiratorial nature of the Republican Party and Donald John Trump's sycophants in the Congress, the Department of Justice and FBI had very good reasons to place the Trump Organization and 2016 presidential campaign under surveillance in 2016 and in early 2017 after Trump's election to the presidency....

christopher steele ex MI6 spy express croppedIn a series of 2016 FBI memos, formerly classified as SECRET/ORCON/NOFORN, Associate Deputy Attorney General and Director of the Justice Department's Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force Bruce Ohr related to FBI personnel his first interactions with former British MI-6 Secret Intelligence Service agent and personal friend of Ivanka Trump, Christopher Steele, right.

FBI logoSteele was sought out by Ohr as an expert on Russian organized crime.

A December 19, 2016 FBI memo on Ohr's interactions with Steele reveals that Steele understood that the threat to the 2016 U.S. presidential election was primarily from Russian oligarchs, who Steele said "are brilliant yet cold-blooded and do not act like adults as they kill people for nothing." That particular statement is important when considering the gangland-style gunshot murder of Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer Seth Rich and the subsequent conspiracy circus that was generated by a massive amount of Internet propaganda generated by Russian oligarch-run disinformation mills in St.Petersburg, Macedonia, Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, and other locations.

Climate Change

greta thunberg charles lindbergh time covers

Time Magazine, Greta Thunberg Is the Youngest Time Person of the Year Ever. Here’s How She Made History, Lily Rothman, Dec. 11, 2019. With her selection in 2019, 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg becomes the youngest individual ever to be named Time’s Person of the Year. While the franchise has a long record of recognizing the power of young people, the editors have never before selected a teenager. Before 2019, the previous individual to hold the record for youngest Person of the Year was the first Person of the Year in Time’s history: 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh, (shown above with her) and selected as most influential man of 1927.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump mocks 16-year-old Greta Thunberg a day after she is named Time’s Person of the Year, John Wagner​, Dec. 12, 2019. President Trump mocked Greta Thunberg, the Swedish 16-year-old climate activist, calling her distinction as Time magazine’s Person of the Year “ridiculous” Thursday and suggesting that she work on anger-management issues and go to a movie with a friend.

Trump’s advice, in a morning tweet, came a day after Thunberg, who has mobilized millions of people to fight climate change and condemned leaders’ inaction, became the youngest person to be dubbed Person of the Year by Time.

Trump was responding to a tweet congratulating Thunberg by Roma Downey, an actress and producer from Northern Ireland. Her production credits include the History Channel miniseries “The Bible,” which she also starred in as Mary, mother of Jesus.

ny times logoNew York Times, Exposing a Hidden Climate Threat: Methane ‘Super Emitters,’ Jonah M. Kessel, a New York Times visual journalist, and Hiroko Tabuchi, a Times climate reporter, went to West Texas oilfields with a camera that can photograph methane, Dec. 12, 2019. Vast amounts of methane are escaping from oil and gas sites, worsening global warming, even as the Trump administration weakens restrictions on offenders.

But a highly specialized camera sees what the human eye cannot: a major release of methane, the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas that is helping to warm the planet at an alarming rate.

Two New York Times journalists detected this from a tiny plane, crammed with scientific equipment, circling above the oil and gas sites that dot the Permian, an oil field bigger than Kansas. In just a few hours, the plane’s instruments identified six sites with unusually high methane emissions.

The Afghanistan Papers, Part 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Consumed by corruption: The U.S. flooded Afghanistan with money — then turned a blind eye to the graft it fueled, Craig Whitlock, Dec. 12, 2019. Key figures in the Afghanistan war said Washington tolerated corruption by unsavory warlords, drug traffickers and contractors because they were seen as U.S. allies, documents The Post obtained after a three-year legal battle show.

The scale of the corruption was the unintended result of swamping the war zone with far more aid and defense contracts than impoverished Afghanistan could absorb. There was so much excess, financed by American taxpayers, that opportunities for bribery and fraud became almost limitless, according to the interviews.

“The basic assumption was that corruption is an Afghan problem and we are the solution,”
Barnett Rubin, a former senior State Department adviser and a New York University professor, told government interviewers. “But there is one indispensable ingredient for corruption — money — and we were the ones who had the money.”

To purchase loyalty and information, the CIA gave cash to warlords, governors, parliamentarians, even religious leaders, according to the interviews. The U.S. military and other agencies also abetted corruption by doling out payments or contracts to unsavory Afghan power brokers in a misguided quest for stability.

“We had partnerships with all the wrong players,” a senior U.S. diplomat told government interviewers. “The U.S. is still standing shoulder-to-shoulder with these people, even through all these years. It’s a case of security trumping everything else.”

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, U.K. exit poll shows Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party with a clear majority of parliamentary seats as vote count begins, William Booth, Karla Adam and James McAuley, Dec. 12, 2019. U.K. exit poll shows Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party with a clear majority of parliamentary seats as vote count begins.

United Kingdom flagThe Conservatives are expected to win 368 seats, according to the national exit poll. The party needs 322 seats to control Parliament — and push through Johnson’s Brexit plan. This is a developing story and will be updated.

  • Washington Post, ‘He’s a buffoon and a liar’: Some of Boris Johnson’s constituents want him to lose his seat, James Boris JohnsonMcAuley, Dec. 12, 2019. There are ways the British prime minister, right, could keep power if he lost in Uxbridge, but it would most likely mean a stinging personal humiliation and mounting pressure to resign the premiership.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House, China reach trade deal in principle that would dramatically scale back tariffs, David J. Lynch​, Dec. 12, 2019. As part of the partial trade pact, the White House would not impose tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese imports on Sunday, people briefed on the talks said.

Under one scenario, Robert E. Lighthizer, the president’s chief trade negotiator, and Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai could sign the document as soon as tomorrow. Alternatively, Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin could travel to Beijing for the signing.

Business leaders who have grown anxious for relief from the trans-Pacific tariff wars welcomed the news. “That is excellent news. It puts a floor under the deterioration in the relationship,” said Craig Allen, president of the U.S.-China Business Council.

ny times logounited kingdom flagNew York Times, Opinion: Can Boris Johnson Lie His Way Back Into Office? Jenni Russell, Dec. 12, 2019 (print ed.). Britons face a miserable set of choices. This is the dejection election. Not in my lifetime has Britain faced such a miserable choice. Two vain, incompetent, mediocre charlatans are competing to become prime minister. For the Conservatives, we have the blustering, lying, oafish puffball Boris Johnson. In the Labour corner is the querulous, wooden, sanctimonious Jeremy Corbyn.

ny times logoNew York Times, Protests Grow in India Over Religion-Based Citizenship Bill, Suhasini Raj and Maria Abi-Habib, Demonstrators defied troops and a curfew after the bill, which would make it easier for some non-Muslim migrants to become citizens, was approved in Parliament.

india flag mapProtesters are angered that the bill will grant citizenship to thousands of Hindu, Christian, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh migrants from some neighboring countries where New Delhi says they are religiously persecuted. Demonstrators say this will flood their hometowns with unwanted foreigners.

The bill will make it harder for Muslim migrants to attain Indian citizenship, although many Muslims are also discriminated against in neighboring countries. Critics fear the bill will be used to harass Indian Muslims by forcing them to pass a citizenship test and prove their family’s lineage in the country while giving a blanket pass to people of most other religions. The bill is expected to be signed into law in the coming days.

  • New York Times, Arrest of Top Crime Fighter Stuns Mexico, Where Corruption Is All Too Routine, Kirk Semple and Paulina Villegas, The news shocked even a country grown used to graft: The man who for years led Mexico’s war against drug traffickers was accused of taking millions in bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel.
  • Associated Press via New York Times, Militant Ambush in Niger Kills at Least 71 Soldiers, Army Says, The attack was the deadliest on Niger’s armed forces in years, and took place in a remote area where jihadists linked to the Islamic State have been active.
  • New York Times, With Many Dents to Its Image, Nobel Peace Prize Is Hit With a Few More, Myanmar’s onetime champion of democracy and Ethiopia’s prime minister join a roster of figures who, one way or another, have given the Nobel Peace Prize a contentious image.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. lab chimps were dumped on an island and left to starve. Danielle Paquette​, Dec. 12, 2019. One man helped to save them, Rarely is the aftermath of animal testing so visible — and so hungry.

MONKEY ISLAND, Liberia — All was quiet when the motorboat puttered to a stop. Saltwater lapped at the narrow sandy shore. Mangrove leaves fluttered in the breeze. Then the man in a blue life jacket cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted: Hoo hoo!

Like a secret password, the call unlocked a hidden primate universe. Dozens of chimpanzees emerged from the brush, hairy arms extended. They waded up to the rusty vessel with the nonchalance of someone fetching the mail.

“Time to eat,” said Joseph Thomas, their wiry guardian of 40 years, tossing bananas into the furry crowd.

Inside DC / Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Mike Bloomberg to donate $10 million to House Democrats targeted by GOP, Michael Scherer, Dec. 12, 2019 (print ed.). Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg, right, will donate $10 million Thursday to defend vulnerable Democratic House members against paid Republican attacks on their support for impeachment proceedings against President michael bloomberg2Trump.

The money, which is meant to even an arms race on the 2020 congressional battlefield, was cheered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has been fielding concerns from some of her members over a costly Republican advertising offensive as the House moves toward an impeachment vote next week.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Congressional negotiators reach tentative $1.3 trillion spending deal, Mike DeBonis, Dec. 12, 2019. The accord, which is likely to avert a government shutdown, came after a Thursday meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and days of negotiations aimed at resolving conflicts over Trump’s border wall and other issues.

Top congressional negotiators said Thursday they had reached a deal in principle to approve $1.3 trillion in federal spending for 2020, likely averting a government shutdown next week.

The announcement, from House Appropriations Committee Chairman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), came after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin visited Capitol Hill midday to review a final list of sticking points.

The tentative agreement sets the stage for a remarkable sequence of events next week in the House, with a presidential impeachment sandwiched between bipartisan deals on federal spending and North American trade. The House could vote on the spending bill as soon as Tuesday, with the Senate acting before the end of the week.

While key sticking points have been resolved, aides from both parties said negotiators would continue to resolve a number of minor issues before releasing the text of the agreement.

A key final obstacle was President Trump’s border wall — the very issue that sparked a record-long 35-day government shutdown a year ago.

While Trump loyalists pushed for firm funding and liberals pushed to eliminate it entirely, negotiators proceeded under a mutual understanding that the border issues would have to be resolved somewhere close to the status quo, in which Congress provides only a fraction of the money Trump has requested for the wall but he retains the power to shift funds from elsewhere in the government.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon inspector general to review $400 million border wall contract given to firm Trump favored, Nick Miroff, Dec. 12, 2019. The president urged military officials to hire a North Dakota company whose CEO is a GOP donor.

The Department of Defense Inspector General’s office will audit a $400 million border wall contract the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded to a North Dakota construction company run by a GOP donor who President Trump repeatedly urged military officials to hire.

Glenn A. Fine, the top official at the Pentagon IG’s office, authorized a review of the contract in response to a Dec. 4 letter from U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, asking inspectors to take a closer look. Fine informed Thompson of the audit in a letter Thursday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Executive Order and the Rise of Anti-Semitism, Editorial Board, Dec. 12, 2019. The president’s campus intervention ignores the bigger threat of anti-Semitism and threatens speech. Last year, anti-Semitic attacks killed more Jews around the globe than in any year in decades. Worshipers were gunned down during Saturday services at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue. Attackers took the lives of a Jewish college student in California and a Holocaust survivor in France. German Jews were cautioned not to wear skullcaps or Stars of David on the street.

The tides of anti-Semitism continue to rise higher, and more government action is sorely needed. The Department of Homeland Security’s recent strategy shift to focus on the growing threat of white nationalist terrorism was an important step. On Wednesday, President Trump stepped in himself — but he did as much to stir the waters as he did to settle them.

Mr. Trump signed an executive order to combat anti-Semitism on college campuses by using Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to withhold federal money from schools that fail to counter discrimination against Jews. Similar congressional legislation has had bipartisan support, and previous administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have taken similar actions to prevent hate and discrimination.

While Mr. Trump’s action might seem like a gesture of real concern, it does little to target the larger source of violent anti-Semitism in America and possibly threatens free speech rights.

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Donald Trump Jr. got approval to hunt an endangered sheep days after he killed it, Marisa Iati, Dec. 12, 2019 (print ed.). ProPublica reports that the president’s son received special treatment from the Mongolian government just weeks after U.S. and Mongolian officials met at the White House.

At nighttime in a remote region of western Mongolia, Donald Trump Jr. used a rifle with a laser sight to shoot and kill an endangered argali, the largest living species of sheep. Local hunting guides fanned the lights of their cellphones across the ground to search for where the creature fell. Trump Jr. asked them not to dismember the animal on the spot, but instead to carry it away on an aluminum sheet to keep its fur and horns intact.

ProPublica described the August excursion in a report that relies on records and interviews to allege that the president’s son received special treatment from the Mongolian government just weeks after U.S. and Mongolian officials met at the White House. The Trump administration has sought to strengthen ties with Mongolia, a longtime defense partner that lies between China and Russia, to prepare for Beijing’s growing global influence.

U.S. Crime / Sports

ny times logoNew York Times, Clinton Portis and Other Ex-N.F.L. Players Face Health Care Fraud Charges, Ken Belson. Dec. 12, 2019. Prosecutors said the players were paid $3.4 million in phony claims for things like medical equipment that was never purchased. Portis played seven seasons with the Washington Redskins. Ten former N.F.L. players, including the former Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis, were accused of defrauding one of the league’s retiree health care benefit programs out of $3.4 million for phony purchases of medical equipment, federal prosecutors said on Thursday.

Brian A. Benczkowski, assistant attorney general for the criminal division of the United States Department of Justice, said at a news conference that claims totaling $3.9 million were filed and $3.4 million was reimbursed as part of a system that involved kickbacks and the recruiting of players to take part.

nfl logoAccording to the indictment, the individual claims, filed from June 2017 to December 2018, averaged $40,000 to $50,000 each for medical equipment that was never prescribed by doctors and never ordered or delivered. Instead, the players are charged with filing fraudulent claims to the plan and, after being reimbursed, sending kickbacks to the ringleaders.

The retired players “treated the plan like it was their own personal A.T.M.,” Benczkowski said.

Benczkowski said that there was no evidence that current players or doctors took part in the scheme and that the yearlong investigation would continue and might expand to include others. Benczkowski said that had the fraud continued, the tax-exempt status of the program for retired players, which was established by the league and the players’ union in 2006, could have been jeopardized, potentially forcing players who received legitimate payments to pay back taxes.

U.S. Courts / Catholic Pressure

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bill Barr and the Republican cult of death, Robert Harrington, Dec. 12, 2019. Immediately upon the release of the Mueller Report and its eponymous author’s william barr new otepidly dry, hyper-qualified, squeamish defense, I knew we were finished. I knew that nothing short of angry, full-throated outrage would save it in its presentation, and instead we got the diametric opposite. All those months that turned into years were eradicated in a single afternoon. We needed an Al Pacino to present the case and instead we got Wally Cox. Robert Mueller could have been Beethoven, but instead of with the New York Philharmonic, he premiered the Ninth Symphony on a kazoo.

But now I’m not so sure any longer. I underestimated the enemy, I think. I think the kind of ignorance we are up against is not so easily assailed. Had Robert Mueller pounded the table instead of meekly tapping it, Mueller’s message would have still been received the exact same way. We underestimate how easy it is for some to believe that black is white and up is down. We forget we are dealing with a new Republican cult of death.

Contrary to what some people on our side are saying these days, believe it or not the Mueller Report was a thundering triumph, an unequivocal condemnation of the Trump campaign and its illegal activities. It was in fact so damning a condemnation of Donald Trump and his people that it actually led directly to some of them going to jail. Yet we as a nation and a people are so cowed by the ceaseless barrage of lies, whataboutisms, misdirections, distractions and petty equivocations by the monster that the Republican Party has turned into, that many of us have come to regard the Mueller Report as if it were a lot of much ado about nothing. The Mueller Report was in fact all the evidence and reason we needed to send Donald Trump and his pirate ship of criminals out of the White House and straight into the nearest prison.

bill palmer report logo headerPart of the reason it didn’t happen is because so many of us have fallen for Republican propaganda. The Republicans used it all those years, and they continue to use it, because it is so effective. It is effective because they believe it. They believe it because they believe they are commissioned by God, no less, and where exactly does one go to begin to dispute God?

We should therefore heed the voice of Frank Schaeffer. He alone was present at the misbegotten birth of this monster and has survived to tell the story with his sanity intact. Schaeffer grew up in a “fever pitch, right wing evangelical home.” It was Frank Schaeffer’s father, Francis Schaeffer, who inspired a generation of evangelicals to enter politics as the righteous defenders of the unborn in the early 70s. It was they who, as the younger Schaffer puts it, worked to “make abortion the litmus test of acceptable policy for evangelicals.” Frankie, as he was called then, was his father’s “nepotistic sidekick back in those days as a young man who had been groomed to take over his ministry.”

Justice Department log circular“That brings us to something that is going on today when you look at Attorney General William Barr,” Schaeffer proclaims in a recent online vlog, “who is busy trying to muddy the legal waters around the impeachment process against Donald Trump. William Barr is a far right Roman Catholic conservative activist, a Roman Catholic first and an American second, a right wing ideologue first and someone who has sworn to uphold the Constitution second.”

Schaeffer is declaiming against Barr’s interpretation of the DOJ Inspector General’s report on the investigation into the Donald Trump presidential campaign. Barr rejects out of hand the DOJ IG’s findings, that the FBI’s investigation was completely warranted and entirely free of political bias.

“He [Attorney General Barr] gave a speech at Notre Dame University that was passed over by much of the mainstream media until quite recently,” Schaeffer says. “But I knew exactly what was going on and called him on it at the time. And in that speech he talked about nefarious dark forces of secular liberals and humanists who were trying to undermine Judeo-Christian values … and this page is ripped directly from the writings of my father Francis Schaeffer, who in his last book, ‘A Christian Manifesto,’ called for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government if it did not change its policy on abortion.”

It is, of course, impossible to reason with a person who gets their mandate directly from God. It is made particularly difficult when any rationale that springs directly from science or an enlightened education is mistrusted as “the wisdom of the world” and considered inferior, even suspect, next to divine inspiration.

Boston Bombing

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Boston Bomber in Court but Full Story Still Muzzled, Staff report, Dec. 12, 2019. Lawyers for convicted Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev went to court to argue that he deserves a new trial. They’re not telling the full story of something amiss. A court in Boston heard arguments on Thursday from lawyers for convicted Boston dzhokhar tsaraev hsMarathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, right, His defense team argued that he had not had a fair trial and deserves a new one. Tsarnaev is being held at the federal supermax prison in Florence, CO, where he faces the death penalty.

The Boston Marathon Bombings were so horrific and egregious that the media pack quickly closed ranks around the narrative put out by the authorities and refused to look further. That’s understandable, but it isn’t good for journalism or for the country. Based on that history, we can both expect the media not to look carefully into the defense’s claims — nor at this late date to look into serious questions about the particulars of the case itself.

WhoWhatWhy was among the very few news outlets to ask these questions and to dig deeper than the accepted narrative — and published more investigative pieces on this topic than any other: 70+ articles and podcasts. The cumulative work we did clearly shows that there is much more to this story than what the public has been told.

Here are some of the remaining questions that need attention:

What was the relationship between the FBI and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s elder brother Tamerlan prior to the bombing?

• FBI records from April 2011 indicate that Tamerlan was willing to assist the FBI — and a senior FBI executive who had reviewed the documents suggested that Tamerlan had acted on this willingness via a telephone call.

Were the brothers even capable of building the bombs that exploded near the finish line of the Boston marathon?

• Experts said that they were not, but the subject disappeared altogether.

If the brothers acted as “lone wolves,” as the government claims, why is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev being held under “special administrative measures”? These are usually applied if there is a concern that the detained person might pass on information to associates in a terrorist network. But with his brother dead and the two supposedly having acted alone, what is the justification for these measures?

This is just a sampling of the many unanswered questions. You can find more here.

ny times logoNew York Times, Boston Marathon Bomber’s Death Sentence May Depend on What His Jurors Tweeted, Ellen Barry and Kate Taylor, Dec. 12, 2019. At an appeals hearing in Boston, lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, condemned to death in the bombing, argued that trial errors corrupted the case.

During the days after bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing and maiming people who had gathered to cheer on runners, a restaurant manager from Dorchester joined the chorus of heartbreak and outrage on Twitter.

“:-( RIP little man,” wrote the woman, who used the handle HerLadyship, of an 8-year-old boy from her neighborhood who had been killed. She sympathized with Twitter friends forced to “shelter in place” during the manhunt, but also said “it’s worse having to work knowing your family is locked down!”

When a 19-year-old named Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested after the attack, HerLadyship retweeted a post from someone who praised “all of the law enforcement professionals who went through hell to bring in that piece of garbage.”

More than six years later, those casual posts — by the woman who became the forewoman of Mr. Tsarnaev’s jury — could become the basis for reversing his death sentence.

george otooleAt an appeal hearing on Thursday, a panel of federal judges raised sharp questions about whether Judge George A. O’Toole, who presided over Mr. Tsarnaev’s trial in 2015, had adequately screened jurors for bias.

They zeroed in on a moment when Judge O’Toole, right, learned that two sitting jurors had failed to disclose tweets and Facebook posts about Mr. Tsarnaev, and opted not to question them in detail about it or remove them from the jury.

“It’s just very puzzling,” said Judge William J. Kayatta Jr., in remarks to a government prosecutor. “You have a defendant who is clearly guilty of this heinous crime and you then stretch and don’t try to follow the rules that we’ve laid down for a trial.”

The line of questioning was echoed by Judge Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson, who asked why the judge did not screen jurors in detail about where they received information about Mr. Tsarnaev.

“Why isn’t this the kind of case that would require probing that kind of information,” she said, “such that not doing so, even if it’s not an abuse of law, is simply an abuse of discretion because the circumstances simply require it?”

Their questions offered a grain of hope to Mr. Tsarnaev’s defense team, which has argued that it was impossible to select an impartial jury in Boston, a city that had been steeped in powerful emotions over the bombings and deluged with pretrial publicity.

The federal death sentence was a rare event in Massachusetts, which has no death penalty for state crimes.

Mr. Tsarnaev and his older brother set down two pressure-cooker bombs packed with nails and BBs in a crowd that had gathered to cheer on marathon runners on April 13, 2013.

The bombs killed three people and injured 260 more, many of them grievously. Seventeen people lost limbs. A fourth person, a law enforcement officer, was killed a few days later as the brothers were fleeing.

Ahead of the trial, two years later, Judge O’Toole denied three motions for a change of venue, arguing that he could easily select impartial jurors from a pool of five million people.

The defense has argued that two jurors had clearly demonstrated prejudice against Mr. Tsarnaev.

Before the trial, Juror 286, a restaurant manager who was chosen as forewoman of the jury, had tweeted or retweeted 22 posts about the bombing, including the one that described Mr. Tsarnaev as “a piece of garbage,” Mr. Tsarnaev’s lawyers say. Efforts by The New York Times to reach the forewoman were unsuccessful.

Juror 138, a man who worked for the Peabody Water Department, had posted on Facebook that he was in the jury pool for the case. One friend wrote that “if you’re really on jury duty, this guys got no shot in hell.” Another wrote, “play the part so u get on the jury then send him to jail where he will be taken care of.”

On the day of sentencing, the defense team’s brief said, Juror 138 said on Twitter that Mr. Tsarnaev was “scum” and “trash,” and that he belonged in a “dungeon where he will be forgotten about until his time comes.” The former juror declined a request for comment from The Times.

Thursday’s arguments represent the first step in a process that will probably last for years. The arguments are constrained to the trial record, and must establish that the judge or prosecutors erred in some way that is significant enough to merit a reversal, a high bar since judges are typically granted broad discretion.

Discussions of the legal questions returned again and again to social media, and the increasing difficulty of sealing off jurors from prejudicial information.

Daniel Habib, a lawyer for Mr. Tsarnaev, said the screening rules were from an era before social media, and were even more necessary now, when potential jurors are immersed in “all manner of opinion and fact and suggestion and innuendo about this case.”

“It wasn’t just that they were reading The Boston Globe,” Mr. Habib said. “They were hearing from their family and their friends and complete strangers on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, and any other social media they participated in, thoughts about the case and beliefs about Tsarnaev.”

Sources of pretrial publicity, he said, “have multiplied, and are less checked.”

Prosecutors have pushed back against the defense arguments, saying that Juror 138 “never endorsed” the “flippant and joking remarks” left by his friends on Facebook, and that Juror 286 may have failed to disclose her Twitter posts because she misunderstood the instruction.

George Vien, a former federal prosecutor who now works at the law firm Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, said he did not believe that the evidence of prejudice was strong.

“I think everyone should stay off social media, but I don’t find it compelling,” he said. “If you look at the overwhelming evidence against him, and all the aggravating factors, it’s easy to understand why an impartial jury would have come down on the side of the death penalty.”

One of the jurors, Kelley A. McCarthy, said in an interview that she believed that the jury had been open-minded and had not been biased by media coverage about the bombings.

“That was one thing the judge was very careful about, that there wasn’t that bias,” she said. “I think we did it fairly, rationally.”

She said she was surprised to learn of social media posts by the forewoman, and said that the forewoman had not had a significant influence on other members of the jury.

“She was not a huge influencer on that trial,” she said. “I mean every single person on the trial had their own free will, and she wasn’t somebody who was persuading anybody, other than what the facts were.”

Liz Norden, the mother of two men who lost legs in the bombing, said a reversal of the verdict or sentence would be a bitter disappointment.

“I think he got a fair trial,” she said. “His defense attorney said he did it. He said he did it. There was no place in the world where you could take it where it would be different. He terrorized a nation.”

 Media / Antitrust

ny times logoNew York Times, F.T.C. Is Said to Consider an Injunction Against Facebook, Mike Isaac and Cecilia Kang, Dec. 12, 2019. Such an action would seek to block a technical integration of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram, people familiar with the matter said. The Federal Trade Commission is considering seeking a preliminary injunction against facebook logoFacebook to prevent the social network from integrating several of its messaging services, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

The agency has discussed how the Silicon Valley company is stitching together the technical infrastructure underlying WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential.

The F.T.C. is weighing whether such an integration would make it harder to potentially break up Facebook, they said, especially if the agency determines that the company’s acquisitions of some of those apps reduced competition in social networking. The agency has not made a final decision about what to do, the people said.

Dec. 11

Impeachment Daily Indexdjt handwave file

Impeachment Coverage Noted Above 

ny times logoNew York Times, House Democrats Unveil Articles of Impeachment Against Trump, Nicholas Fandos, Dec. 11, 2019 (print ed.). Charges Are Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. Lawmakers said that President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, and his efforts to block Congress’s attempt to investigate, violated the Constitution.

The move will bring a sitting president to the brink of impeachment for the fourth time in American history. House Democratic leaders announced on Tuesday that they would move ahead this week with two articles of impeachment against President Trump charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, accusing him of violating the Constitution when he pressed Ukraine for help in the 2020 election.

Speaking from a wood-paneled reception room just off the floor of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and leaders of several key committees said that Mr. Trump’s actions toward Ukraine, and his efforts to block Congress’s attempt to investigate, had left them no choice but to pursue one of the Constitution’s gravest remedies. The move will bring a sitting president to the brink of impeachment for only the fourth time in American history.

democratic donkey logo“Our president holds the ultimately public trust,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. “When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the Constitution, he endangers our democracy, and he endangers our national security.”

The announcement comes a day after Democrats summed up the central allegations in their impeachment case against Mr. Trump: that he pressured Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals while withholding as leverage a coveted White House meeting for its president and $391 million in critical security assistance. His actions, they argued in a lengthy hearing at the Judiciary Committee, had placed the president’s personal political interests above those of the country, threatening the integrity of the election and national security in the process.

washington post logoWashington Post, Day of history accentuates distortions of truth in the Trump era, Dan Balz and Philip Rucker, Dec. 11, 2019 (print ed.). The House Democrats’ march to impeach President Trump and the president’s continuing war with the FBI characterized the strained state of the nation.

For only the fourth time in the nation’s history, congressional leaders on Tuesday put forward articles of impeachment against a president, but that milestone was the most predictable of events on a day that accentuated the degree to which the institutions of government are under stress and the citizens they serve are in conflict.

Amid the partisan breakdown over President Trump’s conduct in office, there was a rare statement of progress: a deal to cement a new U.S. trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, the only substantial legislative breakthrough of the year and one long sought by the president.

But in today’s hyper-polarized environment, agreement among elected leaders — once considered the norm — is now the anomaly. Instead, the House Democrats’ march to impeach Trump and the president’s continuing war with the FBI over the origins of the Russia investigation more clearly characterized the strained state of the nation and the rising prominence of distorting facts for political gain.

washington post logoWashington Post, Impeachment live updates: House Judiciary panel poised to debate articles of impeachment against Trump tonight, John Wagner and Elise Viebeck, Dec. 11, 2019. The House Judiciary Committee is poised to start weighing articles of impeachment Wednesday accusing President Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, with both parties girding for a spirited debate about his conduct toward Ukraine.

Trump is just the fourth president in U.S. history to face the prospect of such a sanction for misconduct in office, which could be approved by next week on the House floor.

At the heart of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Lashes Out at F.B.I. Director Over Report on Russia Inquiry, Eileen Sullivan, Dec. 11, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump suggested he lacked confidence in the F.B.I. director because the director did not share his view of a long-awaited inspector general report.

President Trump snapped at his F.B.I. director on Tuesday for not agreeing with his interpretation of a highly anticipated government watchdog report about the early stages of the Russia investigation.

I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me. With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2019

christopher wray officialThe F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, right, said Monday that he agreed with the Justice Department’s inspector general’s conclusion that the F.B.I. agents were right to open an investigation into whether Russia was working with anyone on the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 election. He also outlined 40 tasks his agency must complete based on the inspector general’s recommendations.

Mr. Trump and some of his allies saw the dense report as proof that their conspiracy theories were in fact true. The president has claimed for years that the Russia investigation was a witch hunt pursued by “deep state” bureaucrats who do not support him politically. Related story below:

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr sharpens attacks on FBI’s Russia probe, dismaying some in his department, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 11, 2019 (print ed.). The attorney general’s comments drew condemnations from some involved in the case, and those inside the Justice Department privately worried he might be undercutting faith in federal law enforcement to please President Trump.

FBI logoPresident Trump on Tuesday blasted the FBI as “badly broken,” and suggested Director Christopher A. Wray may not have the right attitude to fix it, alarming current and former law enforcement officials who want to safeguard the bureau’s independence.

Trump took aim at Wray’s reaction to a Justice Department inspector general’s report that found serious failures in the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign in 2016, but no politically motivated conspiracy to harm the president.

“I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me,” Trump tweeted. “With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!”

U.S. Justice Internal Probe

washington post logomichael horwitz headshotWashington Post, Watchdog details internal tensions over FBI’s probe of Trump, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian, Dec. 11, 2019. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, right, said U.S. Attorney John Durham failed to convince him that the FBI's 2016 investigation of the Trump campaign was improperly opened. When the inspector general's report was released, Durham issued an unusual statement saying he did not agree with Horowitz’s conclusion.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A guide to the misleading spin on the IG report, Glenn Kessler, Dec. 11, 2019. When an official government report disrupts a political narrative, it’s exceedingly rare for politicians to admit error. They either play down the new information — or stick with the original script.

Justice Department log circularThat’s what happened after the release of the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the origin of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.

The 434-page report disputed long-held GOP claims that a “dossier” of salacious material originally commissioned by Democrats triggered the probe and that the FBI spied on the Trump campaign.

But the body of the report, issued by Inspector General Michael Horowitz, also raises questions about a memo released in 2018 by Democrats that defended four applications the FBI made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The report found 17 “significant errors or omissions” in the FISA applications, but the Democratic memo had asserted the FBI did not “abuse” the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process or “omit material information.”

In response to the report, Republicans often falsely suggested that it confirmed what it actually disputed about the origin of the probe. If Democrats acknowledged the FISA abuses, they sidestepped their own role in suggesting the FBI had played it straight.

christopher steele ex MI6 spy express croppedWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Ivanka Trump and "The Spy Who Loved Me?" Wayne Madsen, Dec. 11, 2019. One of the most unexpected revelations in the Ivankalong-awaited report by the Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz on the department's and FBI's handling of the counter-intelligence investigation involving foreign meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign was the previous close relationship between the author of the "Steele Dossier" and Ivanka Trump, Donald John Trump's "daughter-wife."

The IG report's disclosure of a previous close "personal" relationship between Steele, right, and Ms. Trump, left, threw cold water on White House accusations that Steele was biased against Trump when he compiled his dossier detailing Russian oligarch involvement with Donald Trump and his Trump Organization.

Inside DC

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge blocks Trump’s plan to build border wall using military funds, Nick Miroff, Dec. 11, 2019 (print ed.). The permanent injunction casts new doubt on President Trump’s ability to fulfill his pledge to erect 450 linear miles of fencing by the end of next year.

A federal judge in El Paso on Tuesday blocked the Trump administration’s plan to pay for border barrier construction with $3.6 billion in military funds, ruling that the administration does not have the authority to divert money appropriated by Congress for a different purpose.

us dhs big eagle logo4The Trump administration was planning to use those funds to build 175 miles of steel barriers, and the court’s permanent injunction casts new doubt on Trump’s pledge to erect 450 linear miles of fencing by the end of next year.

District court judge David Briones, a Bill Clinton appointee, said in his ruling that the administration’s attempt to reprogram military construction funds by emergency proclamation was unlawful, and the plaintiffs in the case were entitled to a permanent injunction halting the government.

The ruling was the first instance of a local jurisdiction successfully suing to block construction of Trump’s border barrier.

El Paso County, one of the two plaintiffs in the suit, had argued the new border barrier was unwanted by the community and would inflict permanent harm on its reputation as a welcoming, cross-border place.​

washington post logoWashington Post, After bipartisan pushback, Trump ditches effort to kill major federal agency, Lisa Rein and Josh Dawsey, Dec. 11, 2019. The White House hoped the shuttering of the Office of Personnel Management could serve as a blueprint for eliminating other federal offices.

Palmer Report, The real reason Nancy Pelosi is hedging her bets, Bill Palmer, Dec. 11, 2019. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi introduced two tightly focused articles of impeachment against Donald Trump on Tuesday, when she could have brought as little as one, or as many as a dozen. She was going to take heat for it from the media pundits, who never seem to understand (or purposely misinterpret for the sake of ratings) her most shrewd of moves. She was also going to take heat for it from those within the Resistance who are more interested in kicking Trump in the face than they are in winning. But her reason for doing it this way is just so plainly obvious.

bill palmer report logo headerAfter Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House, the pundits (and the fatalists within the Resistance) spent several months working themselves into a pretzel to try to make the argument that because Pelosi hadn’t yet announced impeachment, she was never going to announce it. They completely cast aside the obvious scenario in which Pelosi was keeping her options open, seeing how things shifted, and waiting for the precise right time with the best odds of damaging Trump. Sure enough, that’s what she was doing all along, because of course that’s what she was doing. But it caught most people by surprise, because they’d had it drummed into them that impeachment was never going to happen because it hadn’t already happened.

djt nancy pelosiNow the pundits are presenting us with a new false dichotomy: if Nancy Pelosi didn’t bring a certain article of impeachment against Donald Trump today, she’ll never bring it. Once again, this is missing the obvious. Pelosi inked the two articles of impeachment on Tuesday because she wants to keep impeachment momentum moving forward. These two will be voted on soon, and before Congress heads into holiday recess, Trump will have been officially impeached. Mission accomplished.

But Pelosi and the House Democrats are still fighting fierce battles over Donald Trump’s tax returns, the redacted portions of the Mueller report, and the testimony of people like Don McGahn and John Bolton. Do you think they’re fighting those battles just for kicks? Pelosi knows she’ll win all of these battles. But because the courts move at a slow and unpredictable pace, she doesn’t yet know which if any of them she’ll win soon enough to effectively use against Trump during this election cycle. By January, she should start to get some answers on this.

Afghan War Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. wasted billions of dollars in colossal effort to rebuild Afghanistan, documents reveal, Craig Whitlock, Dec. 11, 2019. U.S. leaders have long insisted they would not be "nation-building" in war-torn Afghanistan. They have spent $133 billion trying — and failing — to do just that.  Documents The Post obtained after a three-year legal battle show how Washington inadvertently built a corrupt, dysfunctional Afghan government that remains dependent on U.S. military power for its survival.  Read the other parts and learn more about the entire series

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Lots of Lessons From Afghanistan; None Learned, Editorial Board, Dec. 11, 2019 (print ed.). Documents reveal that American leaders, civilian and military, misled the public about the prospects of success there.

What emerges from a tranche of documents, obtained by The Washington Post, outlining the abject failure of the war in Afghanistan and the decades of lies told about it, is the inescapable notion that the American government refuses to be honest with itself.

For years, military and civilian leaders said that the mission to rebuild Afghanistan was not only possible, but succeeding. Yet in private, the men and women who ran the war acknowledged to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction what has long been clear to all but the most blinkered observers.

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, an Army general who served in the Obama and Bush administrations, said during a 2015 interview with the inspector general.

The dim prospects of achieving anything that could be called victory were evident almost immediately after the Taliban was toppled from power in 2002. “We are never going to get the U.S. military out of Afghanistan unless we take care to see that there is something going on that will provide the stability that will be necessary for us to leave,” Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, wrote in a memo in the spring of 2002, which was cited in The Post report. Mr. Rumsfeld ended with a plea: “Help!”

Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, The Arctic may have crossed key threshold, emitting billions of tons of carbon into the air, in a long-dreaded climate feedback, Andrew Freedman, Dec. 11, 2019 (print ed.). The Arctic is undergoing a profound, rapid and unmitigated shift into a new climate state, one that is greener, features far less ice and emits greenhouse gas emissions from melting permafrost, according to a major new federal assessment of the region released Tuesday.

The consequences of these climate shifts will be felt far outside the Arctic in the form of altered weather patterns, increased greenhouse gas emissions and rising sea levels from the melting Greenland ice sheet and mountain glaciers.

The findings are contained in the 2019 Arctic Report Card, a major federal assessment of climate change trends and impacts throughout the region. The study paints an ominous picture of a region lurching to an entirely new and unfamiliar environment.

Media News

julian assange and swedens politically appointed judges indicter graphic

WikiLeaks Editor Julian Assange (graphic by The Indicter Magazine and Swedish Doctors for Human Rights).

Medium, Opinion: Why Did Respected Press Freedom Organization Exclude Assange From Annual List Of Jailed Journalists? Kevin Gosztola, Dec. 11, 2019. A prominent press freedom organization in the United States declined to include WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in its annual list of journalists jailed throughout the world.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), based in New York City, anticipated a backlash to the exclusion, and CPJ deputy executive director Robert Mahoney wrote a post intended to head off criticism. But the post raises several questions and invites further scrutiny.

CPJ’s Board of Directors is composed of many journalists in the U.S. media establishment, an establishment which clings to the notion that Assange is not a journalist in order to maintain a supposed distinction between his work and their work. The decision to exclude Assange from the list is likely driven by their aversion to solidarity.

In Mahoney’s post, he declares, “After extensive research and consideration, CPJ chose not to list Assange as a journalist, in part because his role has just as often been as a source and because WikiLeaks does not generally perform as a news outlet with an editorial process,” Mahoney adds.

Assange has never acted as a source. He acted as a conduit and publisher of documents obtained from sources.

CPJ has consistently condemned indictments and even rumored indictments against Assange as threats to press freedom. Yet, it is possible that Trump prosecutors may relish the press freedom organization’s decision to exclude Assange. It provides a salient example for the U.S. government’s argument that Assange is not a journalist but a criminal. CPJ’s decision to exclude Assange undermines their credibility as advocates on this important case, and they should reconsider their decision.

sinclair broadcast logo custom

NBC News, Sinclair drops Boris Epshteyn and other political analysts, Claire Atkinson, Dec. 11, 2019. Sinclair, which owns 193 stations in the U.S., said it wants to focus on local news nbc logoand investigative journalism. Sinclair Broadcast Group is axing the "must-run" segments of one of its biggest stars, Boris Epshteyn, right, the network's chief political analyst and a former special assistant to President Donald Trump. The move is part of a company-wide effort to move away from political commentary in favor of investigative journalism, the network said Wednesday.

boris ephsteyn cropped“We have to shine a light on our value proposition every quarter hour, in every newscast," the company said in a statement to its staff. "Therefore, we will be expanding our local investigative journalism footprint in our daily newscasts. We are excited to dedicate more time in our newscasts to report on critical and relevant issues.”

“To allot additional airtime for this storytelling, we will be ending the commentary segments this Friday, Dec. 13, featuring Ameshia Cross, and Boris Epshteyn,” the memo continued.

Epshteyn’s political commentary, which ran across all 193 stations as part of a Sinclair corporate mandate, has been widely criticized. In a piece last year about immigration on the Southern border, Epshteyn used the word "invasion" to describe the influx of migrants. Sinclair was forced to post a tweet that the viewpoint did not represent the company’s views and that it is "committed to fair, unbiased journalism across our stations nationwide."

"Boris will be moving into a sales-focused role with the company," a source familiar with the situation told NBC News on Wednesday. Cross, who worked on President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, was hired in January to provide balance on the airwaves.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I am standing up for myself’: Host Britt McHenry sues Fox News, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation, Teo Armus Dec. 11, 2019. Add Britt McHenry to the long list of women who have spoken out about sexual harassment at Fox News.

fox news logo SmallIn a lawsuit filed Tuesday, the 33-year-old Fox Nation host charged that the network, a co-star and several top executives had discriminated, sexually harassed or retaliated against her, following explicit messages sent to her by her former co-host, George Murdoch, also known as “Tyrus.”

“I am standing up for myself, for women and for what’s right,” McHenry tweeted on Tuesday. “I have maintained the same allegations because the truth doesn’t change. I feel for any sexual harassment victim who has their story and evidence dismissed, doubted and not believed.”

Inside DC / Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘We ate their lunch’: Democrats claim legislative victories with dealmaker Trump, Seung Min Kim and Jeff Stein, Dec. 11, 2019. In a trade deal and a parental-leave agreement, Democrats locked in long-sought policy changes as the president sought accomplishments to highlight.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pays $2 million in damages ordered by judge over misuse of charity funds, according to NY attorney general, David A. Fahrenthold, Dec. 11, 2019. President Trump has paid $2 million in court-ordered damages for misusing funds in a tax-exempt charity he controlled, the New York attorney general said Tuesday.

The payment was ordered last month by a New York state judge in an extraordinary rebuke to a sitting president. Trump had been sued in 2018 by the New York attorney general, who alleged the president had illegally used funds from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to buy portraits of himself, pay off his businesses’ legal obligations and help his 2016 campaign.

The money was split among eight charities, according to a statement from New York Attorney General Letitia James (D). The charities were the Army Emergency Relief, the Children’s Aid Society, Citymeals-on-Wheels, Give an Hour, Martha’s Table, the United Negro College Fund, the United Way of National Capital Area, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, according to the statement.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Who Keeps Europe’s Farm Billions Flowing? Often, Those Who Benefit, Matt Apuzzo and Selam Gebrekidan, Dec. 11, 2019. How Czech Leader’s Firms Got $49 Million From the E.U. Conflict-of-interest rules are uneven and influence-peddling is murky. The enormous E.U. subsidy program is built to keep the money moving.

One morning this spring, lawmakers crowded into a committee room filled with staffers, lobbyists and environmentalists to vote on a flurry of bills that would set the course for the European Union’s $65-billion-a-year farm policy.

For critics of the subsidy system, one item was of special interest. It was known as the “Babis Amendment,” after Andrej Babis, the billionaire agriculturalist and prime minister of the Czech Republic. It was designed to prohibit politicians who hand out European Union farm subsidies from receiving the funds themselves.

Mr. Babis is Exhibit A of how the system benefits the wealthy and connected. His government shapes agricultural subsidy policies in the Czech Republic. It also gave $42 million in European subsidies last year to his domestic companies, according to a New York Times analysis. His holdings in Germany, Hungary and Slovakia received another $7 million.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeremy Corbyn, U.K. Labour Leader, Races to Close Election Gap, Stephen Castle, Dec. 11, 2019. The national polls put the Conservatives ahead, just as they did in 2017 when the left-wing Mr. Corbyn shocked the experts. But can he recapture that magic?

Jeremy CorbynWith Labour mired in a continuing crisis over anti-Semitism, opinion polls suggest that Mr. Corbyn, left, is struggling even to repeat his surprisingly strong 2017 performance, let alone score an outright victory for his brand of socialism in the general election on Thursday.

But little of that pessimism was on display at a recent rally in Birmingham, England, where an eclectic blend of poetry, music and political speeches was met with deafening cheers.

ny times logoNew York Times, The U.K. General Election, Explained: What to Know, Megan Specia, Dec. 11, 2019. British voters will choose their next government on Thursday. But the country’s parliamentary system has a way of throwing up surprises.

For the second time since Britain voted to withdraw from the European Union, and with the country still deeply divided over the outcome, voters will head to the polls on Thursday for a general election.

United Kingdom flagWith the future of Britain’s status in Europe still undecided after years of haggling, Brexit has inevitably been high on the agenda, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s vow to “get Brexit done” at the core of his Conservative Party’s campaign.

But the opposition Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, has put health care at the center of its pitch to voters, framing itself as the defender of Britain’s revered National Health Service. Labour pledges to increase spending. It’s also arguing that Mr. Johnson could further privatize the service, or accept a trade deal with the United States that might lead to a steep increase in drug prices, claims that Mr. Johnson disputes.

Crime, Courts

naval air station pensacola patrick nichols us navy via zuma wire Custom

Naval Air Station Pensacola was on lockdown Friday, December 6, 2019 after a Saudi Arabian military pilot training in the US opened fire leaving three people dead and several others wounded. Photo credit: © Patrick Nichols/US Navy via ZUMA Wire.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pensacola gunman may have embraced radical ideology long before U.S. arrival, Saudi report says, Missy Ryan,Dec. 11, 2019. The Saudi Air Force trainee was influenced by four high-profile clerics, according to an internal memo obtained by The Washington Post.

The Saudi aviation student responsible for a shooting that killed three U.S. sailors on a Florida base last week appears to have embraced radical ideology as early as 2015, well before he arrived in the United States for training, a Saudi government analysis has found.

According to the internal report, a Twitter account believed to have been used by Ahmed Mohammed al-Shamrani indicates that four religious figures described as radical appear to have shaped the Saudi Air Force trainee’s “extremist thought.” A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge raises Harvey Weinstein’s bail after court hearing, Deanna Paul, Dec. 11, 2019. A Manhattan judge increased bail for former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein Wednesday after a two-day hearing scheduled in connection with New York’s new criminal justice statutes.

harvey weinsteinWeinstein, right, had been free on $1 million bail, awaiting trial on sex-crime charges that carry a possible sentence of life in prison. He has denied all accusations since his arrest last year. The court also restricted his travel to the United States and required he wear an ankle bracelet.

On Wednesday, Judge James M. Burke gave the Oscar-winning producer three bail options, as required by the new laws, calling them the “least-restrictive conditions to ensure his return”: $5 million cash bail, $50 million partially secured bond, or $2 million insurance bond secured by collateral.

Of them, Weinstein chose the third and posted bond — $2 million in assets, including stocks, bonds and cash — with bondsman Ira Judelson.

Dec. 10

Impeachment Daily Indexdjt handwave file

No Anti-Trump Plot: IG

Inside DC

 

Impeachment Coverage Noted Above

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The case for impeachment, There is abundant evidence of the president’s abuse of power on Ukraine, Editorial Board, Dec. 10, 2019. The House of Representatives is moving toward a momentous decision about whether to impeach a president for only the third time in U.S. history. The charges brought against President Trump by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday are clear: that he abused his office in an attempt to induce Ukraine’s new president to launch politicized investigations that would benefit Mr. Trump’s reelection campaign, and that he willfully obstructed the subsequent congressional investigation.

Donald TrumpBecause of that unprecedented stonewalling, and because House Democrats have chosen to rush the impeachment process, the inquiry has failed to collect important testimony and documentary evidence that might strengthen the case against the president. Nevertheless, it is our view that more than enough proof exists for the House to impeach Mr. Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, based on his own actions and the testimony of the 17 present and former administration officials who courageously appeared before the House Intelligence Committee.

We believe Mr. Trump should receive a full trial in the Senate, and it is our hope that more senior officials will decide or be required to testify during that proceeding, so that senators, and the country, can make a fair and considered judgment about whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office. We have reserved judgment on that question. What is important, for now, is that the House determine whether Mr. Trump’s actions constituted an abuse of power meriting his impeachment and trial.

No Anti-Trump Plot: IG

ny times logoNew York Times, Report on F.B.I. Russia Inquiry Finds Serious Errors But Debunks Anti-Trump Plot, Charlie Savage and Adam Goldman, Dec. 10, 2019 (print ed.). A long-awaited report by the Justice Department’s inspector general ("IG") delivers scathing critique of F.B.I.’s handling of wiretap application but also punctures many conspiracy theories.

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department inspector general on Monday broadly rejected President Trump’s accusations about the F.B.I.’s conduct during the Russia investigation. A long-awaited report by the Justice Department’s inspector general released on Monday sharply criticized the F.B.I.’s handling of a wiretap application used in the early stages of its Russia investigation but exonerated former bureau leaders of President Trump’s accusations that they engaged in a politicized conspiracy to sabotage him.

michael horwitz headshotInvestigators uncovered no evidence of political bias behind official actions related to the investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane, the 434-page report said. The F.B.I. had sufficient evidence in July 2016 to lawfully open the investigation, and its use of informants to approach campaign aides followed procedures, the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, determined.

But Mr. Horowitz, right, also uncovered substantial dysfunction, carelessness and serious errors in one part of the sprawling inquiry: the F.B.I.’s applications for court orders approving a wiretap targeting Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser with ties to Russia, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. He found that one low-ranking F.B.I. lawyer altered a related document and referred the lawyer for possible prosecution.

FBI logoGiven the highly fraught context of investigating someone linked to a presidential campaign, the report said, the Crossfire Hurricane investigators knew their work would be scrutinized — yet they nevertheless “failed to meet the basic obligation to ensure that the Carter Page FISA applications were ‘scrupulously accurate.’”

The findings on the wiretap application showed that when it mattered most — with the stakes the greatest and no room for error — F.B.I. officials still made numerous and serious mistakes in wielding a powerful surveillance tool. Mr. Horowitz’s discovery calls into question the bureau’s surveillance practices in routine cases without such high-stakes political implications.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr Publicly Challenges Watchdog Report, Katie Benner, Dec. 10, 2019 (print ed.). Attorney General Bill Barr’s dismissal of a major finding of the report reasserted his willingness to act as President Trump’s vocal defender. Attorney General William P. Barr sharply criticized on Monday the F.B.I.’s decision to open the Russia investigation, undercutting a major finding in a long-awaited watchdog report and at the same time showing his willingness to act as President Trump’s vocal defender.

william barr new oThe report, by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, found that the F.B.I. had adequate reason in 2016 to open an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia. Mr. Horowitz broadly rejected Mr. Trump’s allegations that F.B.I. officials conspired to sabotage his campaign, but Mr. Barr, right, highlighted findings that underscored his and the president’s shared view that investigators were nonetheless overly invasive in scrutinizing people associated with a presidential campaign.

“The inspector general’s report now makes clear that the F.B.I. launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” Mr. Barr said in a statement.

john durham CustomJohn H. Durham, left, a federal prosecutor whom Mr. Barr appointed to run a separate criminal investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation, backed Mr. Barr’s findings in his own highly unusual statement. “Last month we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the F.B.I. case was opened,” Mr. Durham said.

The statements from the Justice Department’s top official and one of his key investigators gave Mr. Trump’s supporters ammunition to dispute one of the key findings in the long-awaited report by Mr. Horowitz that excoriated the F.B.I.’s handling of a wiretap application used in the early stages of its Russia investigation.

While the report was searing in its conclusion that the wiretap application process was marked with errors, it exonerated former bureau leaders of accusations by the president and his allies that Mr. Trump was the victim of a politicized conspiracy to sabotage his campaign and his presidency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Another Inquiry Doesn’t Back Up Trump’s Charges. So, on to the Next, Mark Mazzetti, Dec. 10, 2019 (print ed.). Mr. Trump and his allies followed a script: Create expectations of finding a “deep state” campaign against him, and when no proof emerges, skew the results and move on.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Inspector general to testify about FBI’s probe of Trump campaign, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian​, Dec. 10, 2019. michael horwitz headshotJustice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, right, is testifying Wednesday about his findings that the FBI investigation of President Trump’s 2016 campaign featured “serious performance failures” but was not motivated by political bias.

The inspector general’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee comes amid a tense standoff among senior government officials over the 434-page report analyzing the FBI investigation in 2016 to determine if anyone in the Trump campaign was conspiring with Russia to interfere in the presidential election.

“We did not find any documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI’s decision to conduct these operations,” Horowitz said in his written testimony to the committee. But his report also found failures up and down the chain of command, “including FBI senior officials who were briefed as the investigation progressed.”

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI felt it had hit a ‘tipping point’ before investigating Trump campaign, inspector general found, Shane Harris, Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind S. Helderman​, Dec. 10, 2019 (print ed.). A tip from a trusted ally about possible Russian assistance with Trump’s campaign shook FBI officials, who were already tracking suspected Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The FBI had barely closed a politically volcanic investigation into Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when it got a troubling tip about her rival’s presidential campaign.

FBI logoOn July 28, 2016, the bureau received information from an Australian diplomat, who said a Donald Trump campaign aide had “suggested the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia” that Moscow could anonymously release damaging information about Clinton, according to the long-awaited Justice Department inspector general’s report released Monday.

The tip, vague as it was, shook senior FBI officials, who were already investigating suspected Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, including the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee. Three days later, the FBI took the momentous decision to open a counterintelligence investigation of a presidential campaign, as the election season entered the home stretch.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: FBI Director Christopher A. Wray isn’t playing along, Aaron Blake, ​Dec. 10, 2019. Wray, right, said there was "no indication" that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 christopher wray officialelection, directly contradicting President Trump. He also conspicuously urged people to be savvier consumers of information.

To watch the latest impeachment hearing Monday, you’d think the idea that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election has long been a GOP article of faith, rather than a debunked conspiracy theory. As with so many other conspiracy theories favored by President Trump, it was initially shunned by his allies, but then it became necessary to embrace in order to defend him. Eventually, they just decided not to fight it anymore. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is even lending legitimacy to the argument.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, though, isn’t playing along. He made a significant stand against this talking point Monday, and apparently it has put his relationship with Trump on ice.

In an interview with ABC News, Wray declared there was “no indication” that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. And then he went a step further: He urged people to be savvier consumers of news.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ivanka Trump was friends with former British spy Christopher Steele, according to person familiar with the situation, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman, Dec. 10, 2019 (print ed.). The former British spy who authored several reports alleging links between Russia and President Trump’s 2016 campaign had been a personal friend of Trump’s Ivankadaughter Ivanka, a relationship that he said made him “favorably disposed” to the Trump family.

christopher steele ex MI6 spy express croppedThe previously unknown friendship between former intelligence officer Christopher Steele and Ivanka Trump was alluded to in a new report released Monday by the Justice Department’s inspector general, which said Steele had “been friendly” with a Trump family member, a relationship he described as “personal.”

Steele, right, told investigators he had visited the Trump family member at Trump Tower in New York and had once gifted the person a family tartan from Scotland.

djt william barr doj photo march 2019Palmer Report, Opinion: What the heck did Bill Barr just do? Bill Palmer, Dec. 10, 2019. The big headline yesterday was that the Department of Justice Inspector General announced that the FBI was fully justified in its criminal investigation of the Donald Trump 2016 campaign, meaning Attorney General Bill Barr, right, utterly failed at his task of getting the IG to falsely claim that Trump was maliciously sabotaged by the FBI. But in a profoundly surreal twist, Barr also did something that was frankly just plain weird.

bill palmer report logo headerJust before the DOJ Inspector General report was released, the New York Times revealed that while the report had originally blacked out certain personal details about Trump-Russia dossier author Christopher Steele, Bill Barr had decided at the last minute to go ahead and include those details in the public release. Considering Barr’s established pattern of trying to help Trump at any cost, we were all expecting these details to be things that made Steele look bad.

christopher steele ex MI6 spy express croppedBut then the report was released and it turned out that that the “details” involved Ivanka Trump once having tried to hire Christopher Steele, right, to work for the Trump Organization several years ago, and the two of them having since maintained a personal relationship. Wait, what? It’s not that anything surprises us anymore when it comes to the sheer utter weirdness of Donald Trump’s cascading scandals. But why on earth would Bill Barr have decided to make this information public, after the DOJ IG decided to redact it?

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats announce support for revised trade deal with Mexico and Canada, David J. Lynch, Dec. 10, 2019. The trade deal updating the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement was a top priority for Trump and Democrats.

House Democrats took credit Tuesday for rewriting key parts of President Trump’s new North American trade deal to include new protections for workers’ rights and to scrap a provision they said would have led to high prescription drug prices.

democratic donkey logo“There is no question that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA. It is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), speaking hours before representatives of the United States, Mexico and Canada are expected to sign the revised deal at a meeting in Mexico City. “We’re declaring victory for the American worker.”

The revised North American Free Trade Agreement now appears very close to winning congressional approval, moving President Trump much closer to securing one of his campaign pledges. Helping sway Democrats, the nation’s largest labor federation backed the compromise.

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, GOP opposition appears to fizzle as plan advances to create Space Force, parental leave for federal workers, Jeff Stein​, ​Dec. 10, 2019. The package may face new opposition from lawmakers on the left angered by its support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

Key congressional lawmakers announced their support Monday evening for a defense bill that would create both the Space Force and paid parental leave for more than 2 million federal workers, as signs of Republican opposition to the measure appeared to fade.

House and Senate negotiators in both parties said they would back the bill granting $658 billion to the Department of Defense and other defense programs, a measure that includes dozens of national security provisions prioritized by the armed services.

However, the measure faced at least some new opposition from liberals in Congress, who quickly announced that they would vote against it because of its lack of provisions curbing U.S. support for Saudi-led efforts in Yemen, which have earned bipartisan rebuke and led to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump regime has an ugly new financial scandal, Shirley Kennedy, Dec. 10, 2019. Seema Verma, right, oversees the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid seema verma officialServices. With no shame whatsoever, Verma asked Health and Human Services to reimburse her $47,000 for “lost property,” consisting of jewelry (including a $5,900 Ivanka Trump pendant), clothing and “other personal items.” Verma was in California for a speech when the theft occurred. So, how many of you out there leave valuables in your car when you go inside of someplace for hours? How much has the news media talked about what can happen when you leave valuables in vehicles?

bill palmer report logo headerIs Verma stupid or is she making this up? According to Politico, she initially claimed a $20,000 loss but later, for some reason, more than doubled her claim. It is hard to fathom such a large miscalculation, especially when the initial police report showed $20,000 and it wasn’t until she was filing her claim with HHS that the amount grew by so much. Sorry, but this smells fishy as hell.

Verma is already under “unusual scrutiny,” as Politico calls it. She was a consultant to Mike Pence in Indiana prior to her appointment, and is in constant conflict with HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Verna is accused of wasting taxpayer money on public relations consultants, some of whom were working on her “personal brand” (whatever the hell that means). When Politico heard about Verma’s claim, they filed a FOIA and obtained necessary, authenticated documents that prove the amount of Verma’s claim to HHS.

Trump went on and on about “draining the swamp” if he was elected. Instead, he has continued to fill it with gators and other swamp creatures who do nothing but sit around thinking of ways to pocket taxpayer money. It is completely ridiculous and despicable. Thank God, the HHS only reimbursed her $2,852.40 according to a CMS spokesperson, as employees are paid for lost goods on a discounted basis. Guess Verma will have to buy some new moisturizer, noise-cancelling headphones and another Ivanka Trump pendant.

Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, Melting Arctic permafrost has turned the region into a major new source of carbon emissions, report finds, Andrew Freedman​, Dec. 10, 2019. Rapid warming in the Arctic has caused the region to cross a key threshold and become a net emitter of greenhouse gases.

The Arctic is undergoing a profound, rapid and unmitigated shift into a new climate state, one that is greener, features far less ice, and is a net source of greenhouse gas emissions from melting permafrost, according to a major new federal assessment of the region released Tuesday.

The consequences of these climate shifts will be felt far outside the Arctic in the form of altered weather patterns, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and rising sea levels from the melting Greenland ice sheet and mountain glaciers.

The findings are contained in the 2019 Arctic Report Card, a major federal assessment of climate change trends and impacts throughout the region. The study paints an ominous picture of a region lurching to an entirely new and unfamiliar climate state.

• Greenland’s accelerating ice losses are now in line with highest sea-level scenario, scientists say

Global Wars / Human Rightsafghanistan map world

washington post logoWashington Post, The Afghanistan Papers A Secret History of the War | Part 2, Craig Whitlock, Dec. 10, 2019. U.S. officials doubted their own strategy from the start, confidential documents show.

In the beginning, the rationale for invading Afghanistan was clear: to destroy al-Qaeda, topple the Taliban and prevent a repeat of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Within six months, the United States had largely accomplished what it set out to do. The leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban were dead, captured or in hiding.

But then the U.S. government committed a fundamental mistake it would repeat again and again over the next 17 years, according to a cache of government documents obtained by The Washington Post.

In hundreds of confidential interviews that constitute a secret history of the war, U.S. and allied officials admitted they veered off in directions that had little to do with al-Qaeda or 9/11. By expanding the original mission, they said they adopted fatally flawed warfighting strategies based on misguided assumptions about a country they did not understand.

• In the second installment of this six-part series, Presidents Bush and Obama followed polar-opposite strategies to end the war in Afghanistan. Documents The Post obtained after a three-year legal battle show why both were destined to fail.

• Diplomats and military commanders acknowledged they struggled to answer simple questions: Who is the enemy? How will we know when we have won?

• Read the entire series and learn more about the investigation. Part 1: Washington Post, The Afghanistan Papers: U.S. officials misled public about Afghan war, confidential documents reveal, Craig Whitlock, Dec. 9, 2019. Insiders detail what went wrong in longest armed conflict in U.S. history.

washington post logoWashington Post, Suu Kyi’s defense of genocide charges may shock the West. But it bolsters her status at home, Shibani Mahtani and Michael Birnbaum, Dec. 10, 2019 (print ed.). The former democracy campaigner is set to appear at The Hague over allegations stemming from Myanmar’s expulsion of the mostly Muslim Rohingya people.

aung san suu kyi 2011 myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi, shown in a 2011 photo, spent the best part of two decades under house arrest when a military junta ruled Myanmar. This week in The Hague, the Nobel laureate and former democracy campaigner will defend some of the same generals and her country against allegations of genocide .

To many in the West, Suu Kyi’s decision to personally defend Myanmar’s purge of the Rohingya is indefensible. As civilian head of a government still under heavy military influence, she supported the army and its campaign against the mostly Muslim minority, forcing the United States, Britain and others to reassess a leader they spent years lionizing.

In Myanmar, however, the move has solidified Suu Kyi’s hero status ahead of elections next year, underscoring the abhorrence that many in the Buddhist-majority country feel toward the Rohingya, as well as domestic considerations that make her appearance politically expedient.

9/11 Research

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Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, On the Road to 9/11 Justice: A Year-End Update from the Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, Mick Harrison, Dec. 10, 2019. The following is a ae for 9 11 truth logocomprehensive update from the Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry of the organization’s ongoing legal initiatives, including the Grand Jury Investigation Project and the FBI 9/11 Review Commission Lawsuit.

Having partnered with the Lawyers’ Committee on these projects, we at AE911Truth are grateful for the expertise, creativity, and perseverance they have brought to the pursuit of 9/11 Justice. We also thank the many dedicated activists and donors who have made these endeavors possible over the past year.

Although the prior work of independent researchers, investigators and scientists has gone a long way towards discovering and informing the public as to the truth of what occurred on 9/11, many key facts have yet to be disclosed or acknowledged. Because, as the evidence developed to date indicates, criminal activity and corruption are involved, and because some or all of the federal agencies (and private parties) involved have not been forthcoming with the public regarding all the information they possess regarding this tragedy, the use of Freedom of Information Act litigation and the subpoena and discovery powers that accompany other federal civil litigation options is critical to achieving transparency and accountability regarding 9/11. Under the circumstances, key information necessary to a full understanding of what occurred on 9/11 can only be obtained via legal compulsion.

The Lawyers’ Committee, in furtherance of its mission, is in the process of conducting multiple federal lawsuits and several independent investigations into various aspects of the events surrounding 9/11. An update on the status of these efforts is provided below.

Mueller Probe Fallout

washington post logoWashington Post, Gates should get no prison time, prosecutors say ahead of sentencing for former Trump campaign official, Spencer S. Hsu​, Dec. 10, 2019. In making their recommendation, federal prosecutors cited Rick Gates’s “extraordinary assistance” in Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation. Gates and his longtime boss, Paul Manafort, were the first individuals publicly charged by Mueller in October 2017.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, In U.K. Vote, Online Disinformation Is the New Normal, Adam Satariano and Amie Tsang, Dec. 10, 2019. Foreign meddling was once the most feared source of deception before elections. Now, some candidates themselves are turning to such tactics.

Manipulated Twitter accounts, doctored videos, dodgy websites and questions of foreign meddling. In just six weeks, the campaign leading up to Britain’s general election this United Kingdom flagThursday has had a taste of what the dark arts of online campaigning have to offer.

But in addition to concerns about material originating with shadowy groups or Russian operatives ahead of one of Britain’s most important votes in a generation, a surprising amount of questionable online behavior has come from the political parties and candidates themselves.

The use of disinformation techniques by political leaders, particularly the Conservative Party led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, points to an evolution in how the internet is being used to grab attention, distract the news media, stoke outrage and rally support.

  • New York Times, Worried, Scared and Paralyzed: Lives Caught in Brexit Limbo, Brexit has brought a new level of uncertainty for many of the people who go to work each day in Britain, putting lives and livelihoods in the balance.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Antisemitism charges against Corbyn are baseless, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 10, 2019. WMR's political sources in London report that repeated charges from the British and overseas media that Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic and tolerates antisemitism in his party's upper ranks are baseless.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘No signs of life’ on New Zealand’s White Island following deadly volcanic eruption, Kim Bellware, Lateshia Beachum and Allyson Chiu​, Dec. 10, 2019. ​A sixth person is confirmed dead as rescue efforts have given way to a grim recovery operation two days after a volcano erupted at a popular tourism site in New Zealand. Monday’s volcanic blast left 30 injured and eight missing and presumed dead, prompting calls for investigation into the safety of tourism at New Zealand’s most active volcano.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Review: In ‘Richard Jewell,’ a hero is falsely implicated by the media. Sound familiar? Michael O'Sullivan, Dec. 10, richard jewell poster2019. The movie about the Centennial Park bombing features strong characters — and a couple of caricatures, too.

In “Richard Jewell,” a movie about the security guard who found what’s known as the Centennial Park bomb during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and was subsequently falsely implicated in planting it, the villains are more starkly delineated than the heroes. The bad guys are the government, represented by an overzealous, unscrupulous FBI agent (Jon Hamm), and the media, represented by a sleazy reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Olivia Wilde), who wrote a story identifying Jewell as the subject of the FBI’s investigation.

It’s the Trump-iest movie you’ve ever seen, set a full 20 years before the election of the famously press-bashing, Deep State-loathing president.

That’s perhaps no surprise, coming from director Clint Eastwood, who has professed his admiration for Trump. But it does seem a little weird from the pen of screenwriter Billy Bay, whose “Shattered Glass,” while detailing the journalistic malpractice of disgraced magazine reporter Stephen Glass, at least respected the standards of the newsgathering profession. Wilde’s Kathy Scruggs is implied to have slept with Hamm’s Tom Shaw for information, and she gleefully celebrates her paper’s scoop by fist-pumping her way around the AJC newsroom.

U.S. Crime, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Rampage in Jersey City Leaves Officer and 5 Others Dead, Dec. 10, 2019. The shooting began outside a cemetery and ended at a kosher market where three bystanders were slain. There was “no indication of terrorism,” officials said. It was one of the most violent scenes in the city’s recent history.

The shooting began outside of a cemetery in Jersey City, N.J., on Tuesday when a 40-year-old detective tried to intercept two people who were suspects in a homicide. They opened fire and fled, speeding off in a rented truck that had been reported stolen and leaving the detective dead on the ground.

They drove about a mile, stopping in a Hasidic neighborhood where dozens of young ultra-Orthodox families have relocated to in recent years. With traffic at a standstill as the police rushed to answer 911 calls about the shooting at the cemetery, the pair invaded a kosher market.

What followed was an all-out gun battle as police officers swarmed the area and helicopters circled overhead. About a dozen schools went on lock down for hours, trapping thousands of students in classrooms long after the school day usually ends. New Jersey Transit suspended bus service and a light rail line that runs through Jersey City for a time. A nearby exit off the New Jersey Turnpike was closed for hours.

When the street was quiet again, five people in the market were dead — three people who were either customers or workers, as well as the two suspects, who have not been identified. Investigators said they believed that the store was chosen at random and that the episode was not a hate crime. There was also “no indication of terrorism,” an official said at an afternoon news conference.  

naval air station pensacola patrick nichols us navy via zuma wire Custom

Naval Air Station Pensacola was on lockdown Friday, December 6, 2019 after a Saudi Arabian military pilot training in the US opened fire leaving three people dead and several others wounded. Photo credit: © Patrick Nichols/US Navy via ZUMA Wire.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gunman’s behavior changed after journey to his native Saudi Arabia, friends say, Souad Mekhennet, T.S. Strickland and Joby Warrick, Dec. 10, 2019 (print ed.). After returning from home leave, the Saudi air force trainee who opened fire on classmates at Naval Air Station Pensacola seemed “strange” and “angry,” acquaintances said.

The Saudi air force trainee who killed three classmates at a Florida Navy base last week was a gifted student whose personality appeared to change after a trip to his native country this year, acquaintances and officials familiar with the case said Monday.

Ahmed Mohammed al-Shamrani was described as “strange” and “angry” in the weeks leading up to Friday’s shooting rampage, but schoolmates and other acquaintances said he showed no outward sign that he was preparing to open fire inside a classroom building where he had been training to become a military aviator. The shooting, which also left eight people injured, is being treated by the FBI as a possible terrorist attack.

“He looked like he was angry at the world,” said the owner of an Indian restaurant that Shamrani and several other Saudi students regularly patronized between classes. The man, like several other businesses owners, spoke on the condition that neither his name nor the restaurant’s name be revealed, citing fears of a backlash from customers.

U.S. 2020 Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Pete Buttigieg Releases List of McKinsey Clients, Reid J. Epstein and Stephanie Saul, Dec. 10, 2019. Pete Buttigieg, right, on Tuesday released the names of nine clients, ranging from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to the retail giant Best Buy, that he advised while employed as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, a period pete buttigieg mayor south bend inof his life that has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks.

Mr. Buttigieg’s client list also included some nonprofits, like the Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as several federal agencies.

Mr. Buttigieg was responding to pressure that had built in recent days over his work in his post-college years, which had begun to dominate the discussion surrounding his campaign and become fodder for opponents, notably Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who questioned why he had kept his client list secret.

ny times logoNew York Times, Andrew Yang has qualified for December’s Democratic debate, Maggie Astor, Dec. 10, 2019. The entrepreneur Andrew Yang has qualified for next week’s Democratic debate, bringing the lineup to seven and ensuring that the candidates onstage will not all be white, though the lineup still does not include any black or Latino candidates.

andrew yang twitterA national Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday showed Mr. Yang at 4 percent. He needed to reach or exceed that mark in four polls to qualify for the debate, and this was his fourth. He had long since met the Democratic National Committee’s other qualification requirement of 200,000 unique donors.

Mr. Yang, right, will join, in alphabetical order, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the investor Tom Steyer and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on the debate stage on Dec. 19. The debate will take place at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The sheer brilliance of what Nancy Pelosi just did, Bill Palmer, Dec. 10, 2019. Sometimes I wonder if the mainstream media pundits honestly can’t figure out what Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is doing because she’s smarter than they are, or if they merely like to spin nonsensical narratives about what she’s doing because they think it’ll better for ratings. In any case, the pundits never do seem to acknowledge why Pelosi keeps winning. Now it’s happened yet again.

bill palmer report logo headerLast night Palmer Report pointed out that, for whatever unknown reason, Nancy Pelosi had suddenly decided that she wanted to nail down two articles of impeachment and reveal them today – even though it meant the House Judiciary Committee had to work through the night on them. Now we know why she wanted it to happen today. She was simultaneously revealing that she’d cut a deal with Donald Trump to pass the USMCA trade deal.

Naturally, the pundits spun this as Pelosi inexplicably handing Trump a win on the same day she was impeaching him. But that’s not what happened. Not even close. Trump negotiated the USMCA as a NAFTA replacement that isn’t much different or any better than NAFTA, with the expectation that House Democrats would never pass it. Then he could djt nancy pelosicampaign in 2020 on the premise that the “do-nothing Democrats” are so cravenly partisan, they refused to pass his trade deal, and therefore the teetering economy is the Democrats’ fault. It’s actually pretty deviously smart if you think about it.

Unfortunately for Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi is smarter than he is. Pelosi just brought articles of impeachment against Trump, the ugliest thing that the House can ever do to a president. In that same moment, she showed that she’s still willing to work with the president to get things done, because while she had to impeach him for his crimes, she’s not trying to shut down the entire nation just to stick it to Trump.

This means Donald Trump can no longer campaign on the premise that the Democrats refused to give him his trade deal. Instead, the House Democrats in vulnerable districts can now campaign on the premise that they’re still acting in bipartisan good faith, even though they’re impeaching Trump.

In other words, Nancy Pelosi increased the odds of retaining a Democratic House, while forcing Trump to go back to the drawing board when it comes to his 2020 campaign messaging.

Civil Rights / College Crack-Downs

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon Suspends Operational Training for All Saudi Military Students, Patricia Mazzei and Eric Schmitt, Dec. 10, 2019. The Pentagon has suspended operational training for all Saudi military students in the United States, indefinitely halting flight instruction, firing range training and all other operations outside the classroom in the wake of a shooting last week at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida by a member of the Saudi Royal Air Force.

The suspension will affect nearly 900 Saudi students across the country, the Defense Department said on Tuesday. Classroom teaching, including language courses, will continue while Pentagon leaders review vetting procedures for all foreign military trainees. An estimated 5,200 international students in the United States will be covered by the security review.

The “safety stand-down” was issued pending the results of an F.B.I. investigation into the shooting on Friday that left three young sailors dead and eight other people wounded. Several lawmakers, including Senator Rick Scott of Florida and Representative Matt Gaetz, whose congressional district includes Pensacola, had called for a review of foreign military programs and their screening process.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump to Sign Order Targeting Anti-Semitism on College Campuses, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, Dec. 10, 2019. President Trump plans to sign an executive order on Wednesday targeting what he sees as anti-Semitism on college campuses by threatening to withhold federal money from educational institutions that fail to combat discrimination, three administration officials said on Tuesday.

The order will effectively interpret Judaism as a race or nationality, not just a religion, to prompt a federal law penalizing colleges and universities deemed to be shirking their responsibility to foster an open climate for minority students. In recent years, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — or B.D.S. — movement against Israel has roiled some campuses, leaving some Jewish students feeling unwelcome or attacked.

In signing the order, Mr. Trump will use his executive power to take action where Congress has not, essentially replicating bipartisan legislation that has stalled on Capitol Hill for several years. Prominent Democrats have joined Republicans in promoting such a policy change to combat anti-Semitism as well as the boycott-Israel movement.

But critics complained that such a policy could be used to stifle free speech and legitimate opposition to Israel’s policies toward Palestinians in the name of fighting anti-Semitism. The definition of anti-Semitism to be used in the order matches the one used by the State Department and by dozens of other nations, but it has been criticized as too open-ended and sweeping.

For instance, it describes as anti-Semitic “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination,” and offers as an example of such behavior “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, said Mr. Trump was trying “to silence Palestinian rights activism” by equating opposition to Israeli treatment of Palestinians with anti-Semitism.

Media News

Business Insider, 7,800 people have lost their jobs so far this year in a media landslide, Benjamin Goggin, Dec. 10, 2019. In the past month, layoffs and cuts have hit Verizon Media, Gannett, the CBC, and Highsnobiety, bringing the total number of media layoffs, cuts, and buyouts in 2019 above 7,800, according to Business Insider's tally.

The latest cuts followed layoff and buyout announcements at BuzzFeed, Vice Media, and Disney. For comparison, it's estimated that some 5,000 media jobs were cut from the market from 2014 to 2017.

Sex Trafficking

washington post logoWashington Post, A Florida man launched a nonprofit to save sex trafficking victims. He was actually luring teen girls into prostitution, prosecutors say, Katie Shepherd, Dec. 10, 2019. It was a hot mid-August night in Broward County, Fla., when a recovering heroin addict said she first encountered one of William Foster’s recruiters outside a nightclub.

A week later, the young woman met Foster, 48, at a strip club, where she told him about her struggles at her “dysfunctional” home. Foster told her she should pack her belongings and move in with him until she could get back on her feet. That same night, she packed a bag and Foster drove her to one of his three homes in South Florida, telling her he would save her.

Instead, he allegedly forced the woman, identified as “Victim 3,” into sexual servitude as an exotic dancer and prostitute as part of a 15-year enterprise that targeted teenage girls in foster care and vulnerable young women, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

She wasn’t the only woman Foster allegedly enticed with the promise of safety. Prosecutors said in a Nov. 14 criminal complaint that the South Florida man paid to set up a website for a nonprofit called Foster’s Care, Inc., that promised “a comprehensive restoration program for victims of Human Sex Trafficking,” and “protection in partnership with police and FBI.”

In reality, law enforcement officials say Foster, who faces sex trafficking charges, offered women flashy sports cars and luxury designer clothes while withholding the cash they made performing sex work while under his control. Now, two of the women who worked with him also face charges for their role in his operation.

On Monday, two women who worked closely with Foster as his “main girls” — recruiters and money handlers — were also indicted in the alleged sex trafficking scheme. Hanah Chan and Ashleigh Holloway were charged with sex trafficking by fraud, coercion or force, and Chan was also charged with transporting an individual for prostitution, the Palm Beach Post reported. They allegedly handled the money, managed the girls, and helped find recruits to target. Foster is charged with sex trafficking of a minor, conspiracy to sex traffic a minor and transporting with the intent to engage in prostitution.

Dec. 9

Impeachment Daily Index

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Afghan Scandals Revealed

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washington post logoWashington Post, The Afghanistan Papers: U.S. officials misled public about Afghan war, confidential documents reveal, Craig Whitlock, Dec. 9, 2019. Insiders detail what went wrong in longest armed conflict in U.S. history. A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

The documents were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in U.S. history. They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.

The U.S. government tried to shield the identities of the vast majority of those interviewed for the project and conceal nearly all of their remarks. The Post won release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act after a three-year legal battle.

In the interviews, more than 400 insiders offered unrestrained criticism of what went wrong in Afghanistan and how the United States became mired in nearly two decades of warfare.

With a bluntness rarely expressed in public, the interviews lay bare pent-up complaints, frustrations and confessions, along with second-guessing and backbiting.

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

• For nearly two decades of fighting in Afghanistan, U.S. leaders have sounded a constant refrain: We are making progress. They were not, documents from government interviews show, and they knew it.

• The Post obtained records from more than 400 of the interviews after a three-year legal battle. The documents reveal that people who were directly involved in the war could not shake their doubts about the strategy and mission.

Explore the documents by topic: Spin; Strategy; Nation-building; Corruption; Security forces; Opium.

Impeachment Coverage Noted Above 

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats expected to draft two articles of impeachment against Trump, Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis, Elise Viebeck and Toluse Olorunnipa​, Dec. 9, 2019. Three officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to be frank, described the likely articles that the Judiciary Committee would vote on later this week: one on abuse of power, the other on obstruction of Congress.

Democrats are expected to unveil two articles of impeachment against President Trump on Tuesday that will focus on abuse of power and obstructing Congress, and would be voted Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)on by the full House next week, according to three officials familiar with the matter.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and other committee chairmen Monday night after a nine-hour hearing in which a Democratic counsel laid out the party’s case against Trump. The three officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private talks, cautioned that the plan had not been finalized.

Leaving a meeting with Pelosi, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) told reporters that he and the chairmen of other House committees would announce specific articles at a news conference at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Lawyer for Democrats makes case for impeaching Trump on abuse of power, obstruction, John Wagner and Colby Itkowitz​, Dec. 9, 2019. The 41-member judiciary panel is holding a crucial hearing at which counsel for Democrats and Republicans will present evidence about the president’s conduct toward Ukraine.

U.S. House logoA lawyer for Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee offered a summary of the case for impeaching President Trump on Monday, saying the president abused his power when he pressured Ukraine to investigate political rivals and obstructed the probe by blocking testimony from key officials.

barry berke CustomThe statement from Barry H. Berke, right, came early in a crucial hearing at which lawyers for both Democrats and Republicans are making cases for and against impeachment. Stephen R. Castor, a lawyer for Republicans, later argued that Trump did not do anything that merits impeachment. The panel is now hearing evidence from lawyers for the House Intelligence Committee — Daniel S. Goldman for the Democrats and Castor again for the Republicans.

At the heart of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

daniel goldman stephen castor nbc headshots

House Intelligence Committee Democratic Counsel Daniel Goldman, left, and Republican Counsel Stephen Castor (NBC News photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawyer for Democrats calls Trump ‘a clear and present danger’ as he argues case for removal, John Wagner and Colby Itkowitz​, Dec. 9, 2019. The 41-member judiciary panel is holding a crucial hearing at which counsel for Democrats and Republicans will present evidence about the president’s conduct toward Ukraine.

A lawyer for Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee called President Trump “a clear and present danger” as he summarized the party’s case for impeaching him for having abused his power and obstructed a congressional investigation into his conduct in Ukraine.

daniel goldman Customdemocratic donkey logoThe testimony from Daniel S. Goldman, right, came amid a crucial hearing at which lawyers for both Democrats and Republicans are making cases for and against impeachment. Stephen R. Castor, a lawyer for Republicans, called impeachment “baloney” and said Democrats had failed to make a clear and compelling case.

At the heart of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 4 early takeaways from the House Judiciary impeachment hearing, Amber Phillips, Dec. 9, 2019. Democrats are pushing back against criticism of their timeline, and Republicans against the impeachment process.

We could see articles of impeachment against President Trump this week. The precursor to those was a hearing Monday in the House Judiciary Committee in which impeachment Justice Department log circularinvestigators explained the evidence they have gathered against Trump.

Here are four early takeaways:

1. Democrats are using Rudy Giuliani to push back on timeline critiques. Democrats appear to recognize that the timeline is a point of contention, so they are starting to talk more about why they are in a rush. What they say is, essentially: Yeah, we’re moving fast, but it’s because we have to. Trump asked a foreign government to interfere in our election by investigating Democrats, and that election is less than a year away.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason House Republicans are still using this idiot Steve Castor, Bill Palmer, Dec. 9, 2019. House impeachment hearings resumed today, as the House Intelligence Committee presents its findings to the House Judiciary Committee. House Republicans, who were utterly failed by counsel Steve Castor last time around, and now instead relying on… Steve Castor? Wait, that can’t be right.

bill palmer report logo headerSteve Castor may be good at other things in life. But when it comes to the specific task of arguing pro-Trump talking points in House impeachment proceedings, Castor is a complete idiot. In fairness, he has nothing to work with, as there is literally no evidence or testimony that helps Donald Trump’s case. But he’s proven to be so laughably bad at this, the Resistance is now rooting for him to start speaking and screw things up for the Republicans – if they can stand to get through his aggravating drivel without muting him. So why is he still there?

You’d think the House Republicans would go find someone else to take over the counsel role, right? But keep two things in mind. First, they know their entire case is nothing but dishonest drivel. They know they’re not going to change a single mind by pushing this crap. Why are they doing it? To keep Donald Trump happy. He hears this kind of gibberish bluster on television and thinks it somehow helps his case, because he’s that far removed from reality. So if Castor is still there, it’s because Trump stupidly wants him there.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside Giuliani’s dual roles: Power-broker-for-hire and shadow foreign policy adviser, Josh Dawsey, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 9, 2019 (print ed.). The president’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, right, was on the phone in late 2018, pressing administration officials about his latest agenda item.

rudy giuliani recentPresident Trump had nominated a career Foreign Service officer to become the U.S. ambassador to Qatar, a key post in a Middle Eastern country with tricky regional relationships, an important U.S. military installation and vast oil reserves.

Giuliani, who has said he had held a cybersecurity contract with Qatar in 2017 and early 2018, proposed replacing her with someone he said would be a better fit — Scott W. Taylor, a Trump-supporting former congressman from Virginia defeated in his reelection bid in November 2018, according to people familiar with his outreach.

Giuliani’s previously unreported attempts to shape the pick for the U.S. envoy to Qatar are part of an un­or­tho­dox foreign policy portfolio he has carved out for himself while also working as a power-broker-for-hire with direct access to the president and top administration officials.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: James Comey: The truth is finally out. The FBI fulfilled its mission, James Comey (former director of the FBI and a former deputy attorney general), Dec. 9, 2019. For two years, the president of the United States and his followers have loudly declared that the FBI acted unlawfully in conducting a counterintelligence investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

They repeatedly told the American people that the FBI had done all sorts of bad things, such as tapping Donald Trump’s wires during the campaign, opening an investigation without adequate cause, with the intent to damage Trump, and inserting secret informants into the Trump campaign.

The president said the FBI’s actions were “treason.” The current attorney general even slimed his own organization by supporting Trump’s claims, asserting there had been “spying” on the campaign. Crimes had been committed, the Trump crowd said, and a whole bunch of former FBI leaders, including me, were likely going to jail.

On Monday, we learned from a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, that the allegation of a criminal conspiracy was nonsense. There was no illegal wiretapping, there were no informants inserted into the campaign, there was no “spying” on the Trump campaign.

Although it took two years, the truth is finally out.

At the heart of the Russian attack on the election was the release of damaging emails stolen from organizations and individuals associated with the Democratic Party. The releases started in June 2016. In late July, the FBI learned that a Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser named George Papadopoulos had been involved months earlier in conversations Justice Department logoabout a Russian government offer of “dirt” in the form of emails damaging to Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.

Well, the wait is over, and those who smeared the FBI are due for an accounting. In particular, Attorney General William P. Barr owes the institution he leads, and the American people, an acknowledgment of the truth.

Unfortunately, it appears that Barr will continue his practice of deriding the Justice Department when the facts don’t agree with Trump’s fiction. Pointing to his personally commissioned “review” of the FBI’s case-opening, Barr has declared it is too soon to conclude that the FBI was right to start an investigation. If his goal is simply to support the president’s conspiracy theories, it will always be too soon to acknowledge the facts.

As the leader of an institution that is supposed to be devoted to truth, Barr needs to stop acting like a Trump spokesperson. In the words of the nation’s Founders, the Justice Department’s inspector general has “Let Facts be submitted to a candid world.” The FBI fulfilled its mission — protecting the American people and upholding the U.S. Constitution. Now those who attacked the FBI for two years should admit they were wrong.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Those who resist congressional subpoenas should be careful. They could be risking jail time, W. Neil Eggleston​ (White House counsel to President Barack Obama from 2014 to 2017), Dec. 9, 2019. Witnesses who received subpoenas for testimony or documents from the House Intelligence Committee and refused to comply should be worried about whether they risk going to jail for a minimum of a month for obstruction of Congress.

As a lawyer who has counseled individuals facing congressional subpoenas, and a former White House counsel who has negotiated with Congress to try to avoid or limit demands for testimony from senior officials, I would advise them that they decline to testify or provide evidence at their peril.

This outcome might sound remote, but it is real. As House lawmakers venture deeper into the impeachment process, those in the House Intelligence Committee will now need to decide how to deal with those who defied subpoenas and refused to appear. The first step would be deciding whether to hold the noncomplying witnesses in criminal contempt. If the House votes for contempt, the contempt citation is referred to the Justice Department for prosecution.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Does Trump Think Our Constitutional Processes Are Beneath Him? Editorial Board, Dec. 9, 2019 (print ed.). The best course for the House is to present a case for impeachment focused on Ukraine and the danger to the 2020 elections.

President Trump has now made obvious his contempt for the notion that Congress has any authority to hold him accountable. He has signaled that he won’t mount any defense to American Flagimpeachment charges in the House over his scheming in Ukraine, insisting it is somehow beneath him to participate in a constitutional process.

If Mr. Trump is so clear in his own mind that he didn’t try to pressure the Ukrainian government to interfere in the 2020 election, why won’t he send the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to testify under oath that there was no quid pro quo? Instead, he has issued a blanket refusal to allow officials of his administration to testify or submit documents demanded by Congress. His approach is pitting Republican House members’ fealty to him against their respect for their own institution. They are making a fateful choice to diminish the House.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Eight Counts of Impeachment That Trump Deserves, David Leonhardt, Dec. 9, 2019 (print ed.). The lessons from Nixon and Clinton. During Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee considered five articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon — and voted down two of them. During the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the House voted on four articles — and rejected two.

That history serves as a reminder that impeachment is not a neat process. It’s a chance for Congress and voters to hear the evidence against a president and decide which rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

My own instincts have leaned toward a targeted, easily understandable case against President Trump, focused on Ukraine. And that may still be the right call. But the House shouldn’t default to it without considering a larger airing of Trump’s crimes against the Constitution. A longer process, with more attention on his misdeeds, seems unlikely to help Trump’s approval rating.

So last week I posed a question to legal experts: If the House were going to forget about political tactics and impeach Trump strictly on the merits, how many articles of impeachment would there be?

I think the answer is eight — eight thematic areas, most of which include more than one violation.

Amazon.com Rips $10b DoD Award

 

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washington post logoamazon logo smallWashington Post, Amazon says Trump launched ‘repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks’ over cloud contract, Aaron Gregg and Jay Greene, Dec. 9, 2019. A legal filing from the e-commerce giant protesting the $10 billion, 10-year contract alleges that President Trump’s stated efforts to “screw Amazon” led the agency to opt for a proposal from Microsoft with “clear failures.”

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump used Pentagon budget for personal gain, Amazon alleges, Aaron Gregg and Jay Greene, Dec. 9, 2019. ‘Basic justice’ requires reconsideration of proposals for the $10 billion contract, company says in newly unsealed filing

President Trump’s “repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks” against Amazon led the Pentagon to choose a lesser bid from Microsoft for a massive cloud computing contract that officials have labeled a crucial national security priority, Amazon alleged in a complaint made public Monday.

amazon logo smallDepartment of Defense SealThe e-commerce giant’s protest of the $10 billion, 10-year contract alleges that Trump’s stated efforts to “screw Amazon” led the agency to opt for a proposal from Microsoft with “clear failures.” Amazon pointed to alleged errors and an 11th-hour policy change as evidence that the Defense Department failed to follow the rules. And it said Trump’s alleged meddling with defense spending for personal gain threatens the integrity of the government procurement system itself.

“Basic justice requires reevaluation of proposals and a new award decision,” Amazon wrote. “The stakes are high. The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of DoD to pursue his own personal and political ends.”

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump business dealings argued in case over rarely tested emoluments clause, Ann E. Marimow and Jonathan O'Connell​, Dec. 9, 2019. Congress needs to pass a new law if it wants to prevent Trump from accepting payments from foreign governments through his business, DOJ tells a federal appeals court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Memo from 1990s pollution case shows Elizabeth Warren in action as corporate consultant, Annie Linskey and Matt Viser​, Dec. 9, 2019. The presidential candidate’s past role on behalf of a real estate company trying to avoid paying for a toxic-site cleanup contrasts with her present-day image as an anti-corporate crusader.

washington post logoWashington Post, Attorney general reschedules Trump hotel holiday party. DOJ won’t disclose the date, Jonathan O'Connell, Dec. 9, 2019. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to say when Attorney General William P. Barr’s event would take place but said that it would still be at the Trump International Hotel.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia’s Putin and Ukraine’s Zelensky agree to cease-fire, prisoner exchange in first face-to-face meeting, James McAuley, Robyn Dixon and Michael Birnbaum​, volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotDec. 9, 2019. The steps came as the two sides seek to wind back a bitter war that has cost 13,000 lives and seen Ukraine lose a slice of territory to separatists backed by Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, right, agreed to a renewed cease-fire and to exchange all known prisoners when they met for the ukraine flagfirst time in Paris on Monday, making modest gains in peace talks designed to end a deadly war in eastern Ukraine.

It was the first effort in three years to wind back a bitter war that has cost 13,000 lives and resulted in the loss of Ukrainian territory to separatists backed by Moscow. “We have said once again how important it is to have a dialogue between parties,” Putin said. Zelensky said the meeting itself was “a big step toward peace.”

washington post logoWashington Post, White House, House Democrats on cusp of revised North American trade deal, key party to talks says, Erica Werner and David J. Lynch​, Dec. 9, 2019. The revised pact includes numerous victories for labor groups, a sign that passage could be swift, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.

washington post logopaul volckerWashington Post, Transitions: Paul A. Volcker (1927–2019), Fed chairman who curbed inflation by raising interest rates dies at 92, Neil Irwin​, ​Dec. 9, 2019. Paul Volcker, right, helped take U.S. currency off the gold standard and curbed inflation with drastically high interest rates.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia banned from next two Olympics for doping violations, Rick Maese​, Dec. 9, 2019. The decision means Russia will have no formal presence at next year’s Summer Games or the 2022 Winter Games. Russians who have not been implicated in the doping scheme will be allowed to compete as unaffiliated athletes.

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Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Brexit Party is full of supporters of pro-Nazi British Union of Fascists, Wayne Madsen, right, Dec. 9, 2019. Well-informed sources in the United wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallKingdom told WMR that Brexit Party officials at a recent campaign event were exchanging quotes from the Oswald Mosley, the leader of the pre-World War II British Union of Fascists nigel farage twitter(BUF) that supported the policies of German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. The Brexit Party is led by former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, right, the Member of the European Parliament who largely spearheaded the 2016 referendum campaign for Britain to withdraw from the European Union.

According to our sources in London, Brexit Party officials would say to one another “As the great Oswald Mosley once said,” prior to quoting the British fascist leader who was imprisoned in 1940 for his pro-Hitler views. At one time, Mosley was considered as a future British prime minister. Had Hitler’s Operation SEALION been launched, the Nazi plan for the invasion and occupation of Britain, Mosley would have been a top choice to lead a Quisling-style Nazi puppet government in the United Kingdom.

Mosley’s BUF created a paramilitary force called the Fascist Defense Force or “Blackshirts,” with its black shirt-clad members adopting many of the intimidation methods of Hitler’s Brown Shirt stormtroopers. Today, English white nationalists, including the English Defense League, have participated in street protests in the style of Mosley’s Blackshirts in support United Kingdom flagof the Brexit Party’s and UKIP’s campaigns to withdraw from the EU and curb nonwhite immigration. Mosley was injured during the Nazi blitzkrieg aerial bombardment of Britain.

After the war, Mosley, ironically, led a movement calling for an integrated European union governed by fascist principles. Mosley’s “Europe a Nation” was modeled after Hitler’s plan for a united Europe – to have been known as “Germania.”

As Brexit Party leaders today reject even the notion of a federal Europe, their hero Mosley called for a fully integrated Europe with a European Assembly governing the proposed super-state. Mosley envisaged Europe’s Jews being expelled to Palestine, where they could form their own nation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Volcanic eruption on New Zealand island kills five, leaves many missing, Allyson Chiu, Lateshia Beachum and Deanna Paul, Dec. 9, 2019. Fewer than 50 visitors were on or near White Island at the time of the eruption, and 23 people have been rescued so far, New Zealand police said.

Media News / Civil Rights

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TheGrayzone via Consortium News, Commentary: US Government Drops Case Against Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton, Dec. 9, 2019. The arrest is part of a wider pattern of political persecution of those who resisted the seizure of the Venezuelan embassy (shown above) by a U.S.-backed coup administration.

The U.S. government has dropped its bogus charge of “simple assault” against journalist Max Blumenthal, right, after having him arrested on a 5-month-old warrant and jailed for nearly max blumenthal screenshot rt americatwo days.

The Grayzonehas learned that Secret Service call logs recorded during the alleged incident were either not kept or destroyed. The mysteriously missing evidence included print documents and radio recordings that may have exposed collusion between Secret Service officers operating under the auspices of the U.S. State Department and violent right-wing hooligans in an operation to besiege peace activists stationed inside Venezuela’s embassy in Washington, D.C.

Blumenthal, who is the editor of The Grayzone, was arrested at his home on Oct. 25 by a team of D.C. cops who had threatened to break down his door. He later learned that he was listed in his arrest warrant as “armed and dangerous,” a rare and completely unfounded designation that placed Blumenthal at risk of severe harm by the police.

The government’s case rested entirely on a false accusation by a right-wing Venezuelan opposition activist, Naylet Pacheco, that Blumenthal and Benjamin Rubinstein had assaulted her while they were delivering food to Venezuela’s embassy in Washington, D.C., in the early morning on May 8. (Rubinstein is the brother of journalist and Grayzone contributor Alexander Rubinstein, who was reporting from inside the embassy at the time.)

The Grayzone has reported extensively on the corruption of coup leader Juan Guaidó, whom Washington recognizes as “interim president” of Venezuela, as well as the scandals plaguing Guaidó’s “ambassador” to the United States, Carlos Vecchio.

Vecchio personally presided over the weeks-long siege of Venezuela’s embassy in Washington, D.C., stage-managing efforts by a mob of rabid right-wing activists to prevent peace activists from receiving deliveries of food and sanitary supplies.

As The Grayzone reported, the Donald Trump administration has diverted USAID funding originally intended to assist Central American migrants to pay the salaries of Vecchio and his team in Washington.

The U.S. Department of Justice dismissed its case against Blumenthal on Dec. 6. On the same day, it also dropped charges against Rubinstein, who had been arrested on May 8, hours after the food delivery.

“I’m relieved the government has finally decided to drop these phony charges against me. But I’m also disgusted,” Max Blumenthal said, “because I should never have been hauled out of my house and thrown in jail for an obviously politically motivated, false allegation that the police failed to investigate.”

Dec. 8

World News Headlines

Impeachment Daily Index

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U.S. Political Headlines

World News

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Naval Air Station Pensacola was on lockdown Friday, December 6, 2019 after a Saudi Arabian military pilot training in the US opened fire leaving three people dead and several others wounded. Photo credit: © Patrick Nichols/US Navy via ZUMA Wire.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Saudi Military Base Shooter and the Unexplained 9/11 Connection, WhoWhatWhy Staff, Dec. 8, 2019. The alleged gunman in the fatal shooting Friday at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, in which at least three were killed and others wounded, is a Saudi national who had been assigned to the base for the past two years.

The training of the suspected shooter, Mohammed Alshamrani (shown above at right), was paid for by the Saudi government. CNN cited a law enforcement source saying that Alshamrani — a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force — was vetted upon entry to the US and his background checked again after the shooting with no red flags discovered.

And the case becomes more and more bizarre. The night before the shooting, Alshamrani reportedly gave a dinner party for three other Saudis during which time they watched videos of other mass shootings.

At least one of those men apparently also videotaped outside the building during the shooting at the naval base, as the other two sat in a car watching. Coincidence? Or did they have advance knowledge of what was to take place? Later, they told investigators that they “just happened to be there at the time.”

On Saturday evening, the Washington Post reported being told by an official that “There are no indications of a conspiracy at the moment.” And he added “Alshamrani may have been self-radicalized.” The Post also reported that Alshamrani wrote a letter shortly before the shootings condemning the US for “funding crimes against Muslims,” and for supporting Israel.

Saudi extremist activity in Florida involving figures tied to the Saudi government is certainly not new. But the details have seemingly not drawn any sustained interest by US authorities. In fact, quite the opposite: Inquiries, including by law enforcement, seem to have been shut down.

Perhaps the strangest story involves ties between the 9/11 hijackers and a Saudi family living in Sarasota, FL, until just before those attacks. WhoWhatWhy investigated that matter, and was struck by the lack of interest shown by officials in the deeply disturbing particulars, which suggested possible awareness of the 9/11 plot at high levels of the Saudi royal family.

In that case, too, key figures were supposedly vetted by the US government. As we learned, a counterterrorism officer, an FBI agent, and a senator who were determined to continue probing the matter were variously warned off, stonewalled, or reassigned.

It seems worth considering how much the US’s dependence on oil from the Arabian Peninsula figures in any failures to probe — just as the US was very quick to let members of the Saudi royal family in the United States at the time of the attacks leave the country without being interrogated, despite severe restrictions on flights.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump’s Instinct After Florida Killings Is to Protect Saudis, David E. Sanger, Dec. 8, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump’s first move was to convey the Saudi king’s condolences, and tamp down any suggestion that his government be held responsible.

President Donald Trump officialWhen a Saudi Air Force officer opened fire on his classmates at a naval base in Pensacola, Fla., on Friday, he killed three, wounded eight and exposed anew the strange dynamic between President Trump and the Saudi leadership: The president’s first instinct was to tamp down any suggestion that the Saudi government needed to be held to account.

Hours later, Mr. Trump announced on Twitter that he had received a condolence call from King Salman of Saudi Arabia, who clearly sought to ensure that the episode did not further fracture their relationship. On Saturday, leaving the White House for a trip here for a Republican fund-raiser and a speech on Israeli-American relations, Mr. Trump told reporters that “they are devastated in Saudi Arabia,” noting that “the king will be involved in taking care of families and loved ones.” He never used the word “terrorism.”

What was missing was any assurance that the Saudis would aid in the investigation, help identify the suspect’s motives, or answer the many questions about the vetting process for a coveted slot at one of the country’s premier schools for training allied officers. Or, more broadly, why the United States continues to train members of the Saudi military even as that same military faces credible accusations of repeated human rights abuses in Yemen, including the dropping of munitions that maximize civilian casualties.

“The attack is a disaster for an already deeply strained relationship,” Bruce Riedel, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and a former C.I.A. officer who has dealt with generations of Saudi leaders, said on Saturday. It “focuses attention on Americans training Saudi Air Force officers who are engaged in numerous bombings of innocents in Yemen, which is the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world,” he said, noting that the Trump administration had long been fighting Congress as it seeks to end American support for that war.

But even stranger, said Mr. Riedel, was “the president’s parroting of the Saudi line” before learning the results of an investigation into whether the gunman acted alone, or had allegiances to Al Qaeda or terrorist groups.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI investigates whether fatal Fla. air base shooting is linked to terrorism, T.S. Strickland, Ellen Nakashima, Brittany Shammas, Devlin Barrett and Hannah Knowles, Dec. 8, 2019 (print ed.). The gunman who opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola was a Saudi military student who had been receiving aviation training there. No motive has yet been established in the shooting, which left three dead and eight injured.

FBI logoThe Saudi military student killed three people and injured eight others in a Friday shooting at a Florida naval base that also left the gunman dead, officials say.

Ahmed Mohammed al-Shamrani was training on the Naval Air Station Pensacola when he used a handgun to open fire in a classroom at dawn, officials said, stunning a military community two days after a sailor at a Pearl Harbor naval base killed two people and injured a third before turning his gun on himself.

“This has been a devastating week for our @USNavy family,” U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Michael Gilday wrote on Twitter. “Our hearts break for those who lost their lives in Pensacola and the wrenching pain it causes their loved ones. When tragedy hits, as it did today, and Wednesday in Pearl Harbor, it is felt by all.” 

ny times logoNew York Times, Hong Kong Protests, Largest in Weeks, Stretches Several Miles, Javier C. Hernández and Elaine Yu, Dec. 8, 2019 (print ed.). Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, basking in a recent election victory by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, poured onto city streets. The turnout was a reminder that the monthslong campaign against China’s authoritarian policies still had broad support.

Impeachment Coverage Noted Above

washington post logoWashington Post, Appeals courts are set to hear latest round of arguments regarding Trump’s private business interests, Ann E. Marimow and Jonathan O'Connell, Dec. 8, 2019. As challengers return to court in the emoluments cases, they point to recent revelations about the president’s businesses to bolster their claims that he is illegally profiting through transactions with state and foreign governments.

Attorneys challenging President Trump’s private business dealings say ongoing revelations about his properties bolster claims that he is illegally profiting through transactions with state and foreign governments.

As challengers head back to court this week, their new court filings point to revelations that the Ukrainian president bragged in a July phone call with Trump about having stayed at Trump’s New York hotel before taking office in his homeland.

They also cite the administration’s decision to host next year’s G-7 summit at Trump’s Doral golf course — a choice abandoned after pointed criticism — as evidence of the president’s conflicts and disregard for boundaries laid out by the Constitution’s emoluments clauses.

Other recent reports could aid plaintiffs as well, including that the Secret Service spent more than $250,000 at Trump properties early in his administration and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) booked a room with state funds at the Trump D.C. hotel, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Appeals judges in Washington on Monday and in Richmond on Thursday are set to hear the latest round of pitched arguments that have been winding through the courts, with divergent opinions along the way, and now are one step below the Supreme Court.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial, Donald Trump Is Demeaning Congress, Editorial Board, Dec. 9, 2019 (print ed.).  The best course for the House is to present a case for impeachment focused on Ukraine and the danger to the 2020 elections. President Trump has now made obvious his contempt for the notion that Congress has any authority to hold him accountable. He has signaled that he won’t mount any defense to impeachment charges in the House over his scheming in Ukraine, insisting it is somehow beneath him to participate in a constitutional process.

If Mr. Trump is so clear in his own mind that he didn’t try to pressure the Ukrainian government to interfere in the 2020 election, why won’t he send the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to testify under oath that there was no quid pro quo? Instead, he has issued a blanket refusal to allow officials of his administration to testify or submit documents demanded by Congress. His approach is pitting Republican House members’ fealty to him against their respect for their own institution. They are making a fateful choice to diminish the House.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Four ways Democratic presidential candidates can use impeachment to their advantage, Jennifer Rubin, right, jennifer rubin new headshotDec. 8, 2019. Democratic presidential candidates talk a lot less about impeachment than you would think. That perhaps is a function of their belief that President Trump and his hapless allies are doing enough damage on their own. Alternatively, they may believe that it is not a winning issue in the way, for example, health care may be.

Whether that is true now, they are likely to get a 2020 gift never before handed to the party out of the White House: a month-long impeachment trial in which Trump’s wrongdoing, recklessness and corruption are aired every day, all day, on every news channel. To quote Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), they better not screw this up.

First, the man who ran on “Lock her up!” (on Hillary Clinton’s noncriminal use of a home server) did something a lot worse: He intentionally used unsecured lines to avoid records being kept of his calls, knowing they would be picked up by enemies of the United States. He invited blackmail.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi has broken Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 8, 2019. It’s not as if Donald Trump ever has been particularly high functioning or well put together at any point during his time in politics. In fact, since he’s taken office, Trump has clearly been in steady cognitive decline. But something has happened these past few days in particular, and he’s now spiraling downward in the cognitive department. It’s not too difficult to parse what’s gone wrong for him.

bill palmer report logo headerOn Friday, Donald Trump held a meeting and announced in front of the television cameras that he had to flush the toilet ten or fifteen times. During that same meeting, he appeared to assert that he can control when it rains. On Saturday, Trump announced that he’s going to make it illegal for women to give birth during nancy pelosi djtthe ninth month of their pregnancies.

Donald Trump is now spiraling downward at a rate that’s almost painful to watch, even if you’re rooting for his downfall.

So what’s going on? All you have to do is look back to Thursday, when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that articles of impeachment will be formally brought against Trump. This means that no matter how much time he spends rationalizing about how he was somehow the greatest president ever, the reality is that he’ll go down as one of the few who got impeached. For a narcissist like him, it’s a bodyblow.

washington post logoWashington Post, As impeachment hurtles forward, a plea for legal help for government witnesses, Lisa Rein, Dec. 8, 2019. The diplomatic community is gearing up for witnesses to be called to testify in a potential Senate impeachment trial — and raising money to cover legal fees.

The White House has announced that President Trump plans to bring forward “serious witnesses” in his likely trial early next year in the Republican-led Senate. That could mean more questioning of witnesses from Senate Democrats, or cross-examination by Republicans — and with it more steep legal fees.

Former colleagues and friends of the late Rep. Stephen Solarz gather at the home of his widow, Nina, last week at an event to raise money for legal fees for government witnesses who testified in the impeachment inquiry. (Lisa Rein/Lisa Rein/The Washington Post)

“A few weeks ago I was hoping we wouldn’t need to raise more money,” Eric Rubin, a former ambassador to Bulgaria who is now president of the American Foreign Service Association, told the group.

“But as of now,” Rubin said, “we have a very clear statement that the White House will call witnesses, and that includes our colleagues.”

His association, a union that represents Foreign Service officers, made an appeal as the impeachment inquiry began this fall and its members were subpoenaed. The group has raised more than $250,000 for a legal-defense fund for nine of the 17 witnesses who testified about whether Trump and the White House pressured Ukraine to investigate the president’s political opponents.

U.S. 2020 Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Democrats’ Baffling 2020 Mess, Frank Bruni, Dec. 8, 2019 (print ed.). Four white front-runners, three of them 70 or older. What is this primary telling us? 

I get that this Democratic primary isn’t playing out as anyone predicted or in remote accordance with the party’s image of itself and with its priorities. None of the top four candidates — Biden, Warren, Buttigieg and Sanders — is a person of color, three of them are 70 or older, and the billionaires, Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg, are dipping into their personal fortunes in their efforts to gain ground. For a party that celebrates diversity, pitches itself to underdogs and prides itself on being future-minded and youth-oriented, that’s a freaky, baffling turn of events.

But some of the conclusions being drawn and complaints being raised don’t fully hold water.

If identity group, electability, media bias and personal wealth aren’t the secrets to success, what are?

I think we’re learning yet again that there’s no tidy, trusty formula. But broad name recognition among engaged voters — which Biden, Sanders and, to a lesser extent, Warren all had at the outset — is an enormous asset. So are a sales pitch and brand, like Buttigieg’s, that are distinct from any other contender’s.

Finally, there’s political acumen. There’s raw talent. The last Democratic president, Barack Obama, had plenty of it. The next Democratic president will, too.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bloomberg’s money buys him a very different kind of campaign. And it’s a big one, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Michael Scherer, Dec. 8, 2019 (print ed.). In two weeks, Mike Bloomberg has spent more on ads than other top Democratic candidates combined.

michael bloomberg2After two weeks in the presidential race, Mike Bloomberg, right, now employs one of the largest campaign staff rosters, has spent more money on ads than all the top-polling Democrats combined and is simultaneously building out ground operations in 27 states.

But when the former New York mayor showed up to get the endorsement of Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. on Friday, only two of the 10 chairs initially placed before the lectern were occupied. When Bloomberg joked about his college years, saying he “was one of the students who made the top half of the class possible,” he was met by silence.

“You’re supposed to laugh at that, folks,” Bloomberg said to a room at the city’s African American history museum filled mostly with staff and media.

For a normal presidential campaign, such moments would be a worrying sign, a potentially viral metaphor for a struggling effort. But with the Bloomberg campaign, it is not at all clear what established rules apply, if any. Everything he is doing is so unlike what has been done for decades that it is difficult to decipher how voters will react.

joe biden interviewed by mike allen axios on hbo Custom

"Axios on HBO" photo of Mike Allen, right, interviewing Democratic Presidential candidate Joseph Biden, at left.

Axios Sneak Peek, Biden promises restrictions on Hunter, family if elected, Jonathan Swan, Dec. 8, 2019. Former Vice President Joe Biden, in an interview with Mike Allen on "Axios on HBO," promised to prohibit his son Hunter, and other family members, from cashing in on his name and position overseas if he wins the presidency.

Why it matters: Questions may intensify as impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump move to the Senate and the Iowa caucuses approach. Biden already has drawn scrutiny for allowing his son to get paid handsomely by a Ukrainian business while the former vice president led the Obama administration's anti-corruption push in Ukraine.

The big question: Will Biden move away from a posture of defending his son's honor to acknowledge and address legitimate concerns about his own judgment from some Democrats and swing voters?

Biden told "Axios on HBO" that Hunter did nothing wrong — but that he has not dug into what Hunter actually did while working in Ukraine. "I don't know what he was doing. I know he was on the board. I found out he was on the board after he was on the board and that was it," Biden told us.  Asked whether he wants to get to the bottom of it, Biden said, "No. Because I trust my son."

Biden said his family will be banned from making money overseas if he wins, faulting the president's family members' government and business conflicts of interests — not Hunter's work — for the need for a formal guardrail. "They will not be engaged in any foreign business because of what's happened in this administration."

Axios' Alexi McCammond, who spent time on Biden's Iowa bus tour last week, said after he called a man a "damn liar" at one event for making unsubstantiated claims about Hunter's work, Biden told reporters the next day that he "probably shouldn't have challenged him to pushups" and doesn't want to stoop to Trump's level in sparring with critics.

washington post logoWashington Post, Challenger takes on S.C. Senate race with rags-to-prominence story, record fundraising, Chris Dixon, Dec. 8, 2019 (print ed.). Lindsey Graham is likely to face the strongest Democratic challenger of his political career in the Senate next year: Jaime Harrison, an African American native son with marquee credentials and deep connections in jaime harrison twitterboth South Carolina and Washington.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosYet the Democrat knows he’ll need far more than anecdotes in his fight against incumbent Lindsey O. Graham. Harrison, left, touts marquee credentials and deep connections in both South Carolina and Washington. And armed with a record haul of campaign dollars, he hopes to energize not only the state’s nearly 1 million nonwhite voters, but Republican and independent moderates disaffected by Graham’s embrace of President Trump.

While he’s facing long odds, Harrison is arguably Graham’s strongest opponent since his first Senate run in 2002.

ny times logoNew York Times, Will a Marathon Race With No Democratic Front Runner Help Trump? Jonathan Martin, Dec. 8, 2019 (print ed.). In the presidential primary, Democrats face the prospect of a monthslong delegate battle that would show the party’s fissures.

With no true front-runner and three other candidates besides Mr. Bloomberg armed with war chests of over $20 million, Democrats are confronting the prospect of a drawn-out democratic donkey logoprimary reminiscent of the epic Clinton-Obama contest in 2008.

“There’s a real possibility Pete wins here, Warren takes New Hampshire, Biden South Carolina and who knows about Nevada,” said Sue Dvorsky, a former Iowa Democratic chair. “Then you go into Super Tuesday with Bloomberg throwing $30 million out of his couch cushions and this is going to go for a while.”

That’s a worrisome prospect for a party already debating whether it has a candidate strong enough to defeat President Trump next November. The contenders have recently begun to attack one another more forcefully — Ms. Warren, a nonaggressor for most of the campaign, took on Mr. Buttigieg on Thursday night — and the sparring could get uglier the longer the primary continues.

A monthslong delegate battle would also feature a lengthy public airing of the party’s ideological fissures and focus more attention on contentious policies like single-payer health care while allowing Mr. Trump to unleash millions of dollars in attack ads portraying Democrats as extreme.

Sports / Social Justice

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Jim Brown: Football Has Forgotten the Men Who Made It Great, Jim Brown, right as shown in 2007, (Actor and Hall of Fame running back for the Cleveland Browns from jim brown1957 to 1965), Dec. 8, 2019 (print ed.). While the league makes billions, many retired players are living on shockingly low pensions.

Turn on any N.F.L. game on Sunday, and you’ll see the league celebrating its 100th season. Thunderous video montages and “Top 10 Tight Ends” specials will exalt football’s history with one clear, though unspoken, message: The appeal and profitability of today’s N.F.L. derives as much from its past as its present.

What the highlights won’t show, however, is how many of the actual human beings in those grainy films — rank-and-file players from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s who helped make the league the $15 billion business it is today — are now, in old age, struggling to make ends meet. The reason is not that their salaries were in the thousands rather than the millions. It’s that their pensions from the league are shockingly, immorally, low.

Most N.F.L. players who retired before 1993 receive a pension of about $365 a month per season they played, meaning that the typical seven-year player gets about $2,500 a month. Thousands get considerably less, and have stories you won’t see on network broadcasts.

One star of those New York Jets’ Super Bowl team videos now lives in a trailer; unable to afford a dentist, he barely has any teeth. A standout lineman from the storied 1970s Minnesota Vikings played 17 years and gets just $2,300 a month (he took some of his pension early). That’s not enough to cover his football-related medical bills, leaving him and his wife living check to check. There are countless more like them.

Now, I am not one of these players. I was fortunate to have second careers, in marketing for PepsiCo and as an actor. But I know too many of these men and their families. They need a voice, one that can be heard over the highlights.

This situation is easily fixed. The N.F.L. and the players union are negotiating a labor agreement that will ultimately split up more than $100 billion — perhaps even $200 billion — in revenue. The money for dignified pensions is there. In fact, according to Fairness for Athletes in Retirement, an advocacy group, less than 1 percent of the revenue from each side, the players’ union and the league, would more than double the current pension for every pre-1993 player for the rest of their lives.

The question is whether the league and players want to step up for the men on whose knees, shoulders and brains the N.F.L. was built.

Dec. 7

World News Headlines

U.S. 2020 Political Headlines

Impeachment Daily Index

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Impeachment Coverage Noted Above 

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Signals Trump Won’t Mount House Impeachment Defense, Nicholas Fandos and Maggie Haberman, Dec. 7, 2019 (print ed.). In a sharply worded letter, the White House counsel denounced the impeachment inquiry and called on Democrats to end it, or get it over with quickly.

The White House signaled on Friday that it did not intend to mount a defense of President Trump or otherwise participate in the House impeachment proceedings, sending Democrats a sharply worded letter that condemned the process as “completely baseless” and urged them to get it over with quickly.

pat cipollone file cropped“House Democrats have wasted enough of America’s time with this charade,” the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, left, wrote in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York. “You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings.”

The two-paragraph letter did not explicitly say what Mr. Trump’s legal team planned to do, but it ended by quoting the president saying that the House should hold a swift vote on impeachment to speed the way for a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, where White House officials believe Mr. Trump will have a better chance to mount a defense. People close to the White House said that it would take major concessions by Democrats for that position to change.

“Adopting articles of impeachment would be a reckless abuse of power by House Democrats and would constitute the most unjust, highly partisan and unconstitutional attempt at impeachment in our nation’s history,” Mr. Cipollone wrote.

That timetable also suits House Democrats, who have signaled they want to move quickly to impeach Mr. Trump before leaving Washington for Christmas.

The White House position clears the way for House committees to debate and approve impeachment articles as soon as next week, allowing a vote by the full House by Dec. 20, the final legislative day of the year. And it all but ensures that the president’s defense will not be heard before early January, when the Senate is expected to begin a trial to hear whatever case the House presents.

The White House stance is a departure from impeachments past. When the House moved to charge Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton, their lawyers fully participated in the proceedings, including presenting lengthy defenses before the Judiciary Committee.

In the case of Mr. Trump, the president and his allies have complained for months that they deserve legal representation in the inquiry. Now, they are refusing an invitation to avail themselves.

vladimir putin djt Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump suddenly goes running to Putin as impeachment threatens to swallow him whole, Bill Palmer, Dec. 7, 2019. We still don’t know how the impeachment process will play out against Donald Trump – but we know that Nancy Pelosi isn’t messing around, and she’s far smarter and savvier than he is. Trump has announced that sergey lavrovhe won’t even bother participating in the next phase of the House impeachment process. Instead he’s running into the arms of a familiar face.

That’s right, Trump is running to Vladimir Putin for help. Putin’s right hand man Sergei Lavrov, right, is visiting the White House this upcoming week so he can meet with Trump’s own corrupt right hand man, Mike Pompeo, according to the Washington Post. The meeting is obviously nothing more than an opportunity for Putin to pass instructions to Trump in a manner that can’t be electronically traced, and it’s obviously a sign that Trump is at the end of his rope when it comes to his Ukraine extortion scandal.

bill palmer report logo headerNotably, this meeting is suddenly happening right after Donald Trump figured out that House impeachment investigators can get to his cellphone records, after they did the same to Rudy Giuliani. It’s not difficult to parse that Trump is now afraid to simply pull out his personal cellphone and call whichever Putin intermediary he might be using this week. Any such calls have been unsecured all along, but Trump only appears to be finally figuring this out now.

In any case, the specter of Donald Trump inviting the Kremlin into the White House, at a time when Trump is being impeached over his Ukraine scandal that was aimed at helping the Kremlin, makes for terrible optics. It’s clear that Trump is far past the point of caring about appearances. When you’re this desperate and you’re running out of options, your last ditch antics tend to make you look even more guilty.

washington post logoWashington Post, Phone records renew concerns over security of Trump’s calls, Paul Sonne, Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, Dec. 7, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump has routinely communicated with his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and other individuals speaking on cellphones vulnerable to monitoring by Russian and other foreign intelligence services, current and former U.S. officials said.

President Donald Trump officialPhone records released this week by the House Intelligence Committee revealed extensive communications between Giuliani, unidentified people at the White House and others involved in the campaign to pressure Ukraine, with no indication that those calls were encrypted or otherwise shielded from foreign surveillance.

The revelations raise the possibility that Moscow was able to learn about aspects of Trump’s attempt to get Ukraine to investigate a political rival months before that effort was exposed by a whistleblower report and the impeachment inquiry, officials said.

U.S. 2020 Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, As Impeachment Unfolds, the Economy Booms. What Will Voters Prioritize? Annie Karni and Jeanna Smialek, Dec. 7, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump could find republican elephant logohimself in 2020 presiding over a record-long economic expansion while defending his fitness to hold office. President Trump was greeted Friday morning with news of a blockbuster jobs report, showing that employers added 266,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate fell to 3.5 percent, its lowest level since 1969.

The country’s economic condition, which has historically aligned with a president’s re-election chances, should be helping Mr. Trump sail into a second term. But what should be a top indicator of Mr. Trump’s performance as president came a day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the House to begin drafting articles of impeachment against him.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, White House nears deal giving federal workers paid parental leave if Congress backs Space Force, Jeff Stein, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa, Dec. 7, 2019. The sweeping agreement would afford 12 weeks of paid parental leave in exchange for establishing a sixth branch of the military, according to people with knowledge of the tentative deal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texans vow to fight Trump’s efforts to take their property for border wall, Arelis R. Hernández | Photos by Brenda Bazán, Dec. 7, 2019 (print ed.). As the government pushes to accelerate construction of what Trump has promised will be a total of 500 miles of new barrier by the end of 2020, it means more than cutting through desolate desert, ranch lands, shrubby wildlife preserves or old vacant lots. It also means seizing land from working families.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Does the attorney general really believe this? Editorial Board, Dec. 7, 2019 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr, right, has delivered two speeches in the past month that are alarming in substance and which raise questions about his understanding of the proper role and temperament of the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

william barr new oMr. Barr’s speech last month to the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, was stunningly and dangerously at odds with reality. He argued that Democrats have devolved from “loyal opposition” to a force “engaged in a war to cripple, by any means necessary, a duly elected government” — while Republicans “tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means.”

Mr. Barr is right that politics today makes too little room for compromise. But the idea that the right is the aggrieved party and only the left is guilty in this decline is almost laughable. It was then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who declared in 2010 that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” It was Mr. McConnell and the Republicans who refused even to consider Mr. Obama’s nomination of the well-qualified Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

World News

washington post logoiran flag mapWashington Post, Iran releases American scholar held since 2016 in prisoner exchange, Carol Morello​, Dec. 7, 2019. An American scholar held for three years on espionage charges in Iran has been released from prison and was flown out of the country in exchange for an Iranian biologist imprisoned in the United States, officials said early Saturday.

Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University graduate student, was conducting research in Iran when he was arrested in 2016. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison the following year and sent to the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran.

Wang was exchanged for Massoud Soleimani, a stem cell researcher arrested last year on charges of sanctions violations. He was scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 11, but the Justice Department dropped all charges against him, paving the way for his release.

After the exchange was made in Switzerland, Wang was flown to a U.S. Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany, where U.S. physicians will examine him, a senior administration official said. Another official who spoke with Wang by telephone said he sounded in good health and spirits.

The prisoner swap represented a striking breakthrough in a time of spiraling tensions between Tehran and Washington. In a background briefing call with reporters, the second senior administration official reiterated President Trump’s offer to negotiate with Iran with no preconditions to discuss a range of issues. Among them are the abolition of Iran’s nuclear program, the release of all American prisoners, and an end to Iran’s support for militias and rebels in other countries in the region.

Dec. 6

Impeachment Daily Index

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Impeachment Coverage Noted Above

william barr candlelight vigil may 13 2019 shane mccoy us marshals flickr

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Who is William Barr? Attorney General’s Unknown Past, Frank Snepp, Dec. 6, 2019. ExCIA officer Frank Snepp recalls the forgotten past of exCIA officer Bill Barr — and what Barr did that was so controversial the first time he was attorney general, nearly three decades ago.

If you want to understand William Barr, President Donald Trump’s strikingly partisan and loyal attorney general who has continually assured Trump that his desired actions are perfectly legal, then you have to understand William Barr, the person. I first got to know him in 1971 when he was just a lowly CIA analyst — and I was also working for the agency.

I wrote about this encounter in a piece for the Village Voice that traced his subsequent activities and their impact on America and the world — way back in 1992, during his first stint as attorney general. At the time he was serving George H.W. Bush (the first President Bush) and was no less controversial.

I was proud to work for the Voice, which did some of the best journalism in the world, and where Jonathan Larsen was the editor-in-chief and Russ Baker a young investigative reporter.

Today, of course, Larsen is the board chairman at WhoWhatWhy and Baker is editor-in-chief.

The Voice, sadly, is now out of business, but I have given WhoWhatWhy permission to reprint this, as I believe it provides important context to the person Barr has become — and the unique role he is playing in the drama unfolding over Trump, impeachment, and the proper conduct of government officials.

Village Voice, Attorney General William Barr Is the Best Reason to Vote for Clinton, Frank Snepp, Oct. 27, 1992. A federal judge accuses the Justice Department of trying to “shape” a case involving illegal loans to Iraq. The House Judiciary Committee blasts federal attorneys for compromising their reputation for impartiality in the investigation of a computer software theft. CIA officials charge a deputy attorney general with advocating the suppression of evidence in a sensitive sentencing hearing.

To even the most avid scandalmonger, these may sound like the ravings of a fevered Orwellian imagination. But in fact they are all part of a litany of wrongdoing leveled at George Bush’s Justice Depart­ment in the past two months alone. And at the center of the criticism is the chief artic­ulator of Bush’s imperial presidency, the man who wrote the legal rationale for the Gulf War, the Panama invasion, and the officially sanctioned kidnapping of, foreign nationals abroad — Attorney General William P. Barr.

So fast has Barr’s star dimmed in recent months that even conservative pundits like The New York Times’s William Safire have taken to calling him the “Cover-Up General.” But so poorly understood are Barr’s ties to the president himself that the fires now threatening the Justice Department have barely singed the Oval Office.

To some Washington insiders, that comes as a surprise, for Barr is surely the closest thing this administration has to a court philosopher. Through the policy deci­sions he has authored, first as assistant at­torney general and finally as the chief him­self, he has fashioned a coherent, radical ideology for a White House that is only ostensibly middle-of-the-road.
While the president, for example, hails a “new world order” based on the rules of law, Barr’s briefs give us broken interna­tional covenants. Though conservative pur­ists pretend that the Justice Department remains reactive, the attorney general, bolstered by an activist Supreme Court, sets aggressively conservative social agendas on everything from abortion to immigration­ — while stalling off inquiries into a myriad of scandals. Indeed, nothing better sums up the political gospel and failings of George Bush’s reign on the eve of this election than the handiwork of his chief lawyer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani returns to Ukraine, signals apparent disregard for inquiry, Paul Sonne, Greg Miller and Josh Dawsey, Dec. 6, 2019. ​Current and former officials in Washington expressed astonishment at how President Trump’s private attorney — apparently on his behalf — seemed to be mocking investigators, if not the very idea that either he or his client should answer any articles of impeachment.

Even as the House of Representatives began drafting charges against President Trump this week, his private attorney, who many believe is partly responsible for leading Trump on the path to his likely impeachment, made an audacious trip to the country at the center of the scandal.

rudy giulianiRudolph W. Giuliani, right, departed Kyiv after meeting with a range of Ukrainians who have been feeding him unproven allegations against former vice president Joe Biden and helping construct a counternarrative that is taking hold in the Republican Party. The latter story line asserts that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, including with the baseless theory that Ukraine, rather than Russia, was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

The purported purpose of the trip was to conduct interviews for a documentary on a right-wing media network. But Giuliani’s travel also appeared designed to send a broader and more brazen signal of the disregard that he and Trump have for the unfolding impeachment process.

Rudolph W. Giuliani departed Kyiv after meeting with a range of Ukrainians who have been feeding him unproven allegations against former vice president Joe Biden and helping construct a counternarrative that is taking hold in the Republican Party. The latter story line asserts that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, including with the baseless theory that Ukraine, rather than Russia, was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

The purported purpose of the trip was to conduct interviews for a documentary on a right-wing media network. But Giuliani’s travel also appeared designed to send a broader and more brazen signal of the disregard that he and Trump have for the unfolding impeachment process.

• White House blasts inquiry, rejects invitation to participate in process as Trump focuses on Senate
• Analysis: What happened that mattered this week in the inquiry

washington post logoWashington Post, Phone records renew concerns over security of Trump’s calls, Paul Sonne, Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, Dec. 6, 2019. President Trump has routinely communicated with his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and other individuals speaking on cellphones vulnerable to monitoring by Russian and other foreign intelligence services, current and former U.S. officials said.

President Donald Trump officialPhone records released this week by the House Intelligence Committee revealed extensive communications between Giuliani, unidentified people at the White House and others involved in the campaign to pressure Ukraine, with no indication that those calls were encrypted or otherwise shielded from foreign surveillance.

The revelations raise the possibility that Moscow was able to learn about aspects of Trump’s attempt to get Ukraine to investigate a political rival months before that effort was exposed by a whistleblower report and the impeachment inquiry, officials said.

Palmer Report, New arrest made in relation to Donald Trump’s Ukraine extortion scandal, Bill Palmer, Dec. 6, 2019. Thus far we’ve seen four people arrested in relation to Donald Trump’s Ukraine extortion scandal, including Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Now we can add another name to the pile, as Ukraine has managed to arrest one of the people responsible for helping to manufacture the fake Biden scandal that was at the center of Donald Trump’s blackmail scheme.

bill palmer report logo headerFormer Ukrainian politician Oleksandr Onyshchenko was one of the people who helped make up the fake Biden scandal to begin with, before fleeing the country after he was exposed for embezzling funds. Now he’s finally been arrested in Germany. This is notable because as recently as a couple months ago, this guy was still spouting the exact same false Biden narrative that Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani have been pushing.

It’s notable that Ukraine’s arrest of Onyshchenko comes as Rudy Giuliani is running around Ukraine and meeting with the most corrupt people in the country, in a last ditch effort at manufacturing phony evidence of his own innocence. It appears Ukraine is rushing to take down the kind of people Rudy is trying to conspire with, before he can get to them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi resisted Trump’s impeachment. Now she’s the public face, Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis, Dec. 6, 2019 (print ed.). The speaker was skeptical of impeachment for months, considering it a political liability and preferring to focus on pocketbook issues. That changed with Trump’s phone call to Ukraine.

nancy pelosi djtDon’t expect these hearings to trigger a massive shift in public support toward ousting President Trump, Pelosi (D-Calif.) told her colleagues the night before the hearing, according to Democrats familiar with her warning who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the encounter frankly.

Those words of caution — delivered as House Intelligence Committee members prepared in the Capitol basement for the next day’s hearing — reflected the innate skepticism that has influenced her every move as she has guided her Democratic majority through a tumultuous moment in the nation’s history.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas is about to put Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani in prison, Bill Palmer, Dec. 6, 2019. This past week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff confirmed that Ukraine scandal henchman Lev Parnas has indeed been providing him with physical evidence in Donald Trump’s impeachment.

lev parnas mug alexandria sheriffLev Parnas, right, has begun negotiating a plea deal with the Feds at the SDNY, according to his attorney. This is a big deal for two reasons. First, by their very nature, federal plea deal negotiations start with a proffer session in which the suspect confesses to everything, so prosecutors can figure out how much they want to offer. Parnas’ proffer hasn’t happened yet. But ask any legal expert and they’ll tell you that once the proffer does happen, there’s basically no going back on a plea deal.

bill palmer report logo headerSecond, the SDNY is famous for only giving out cooperating plea deals to those who come fully clean about everything. In other words Lev Parnas can’t just, for instance, sell out Igor Fruman while protecting Rudy Giuliani. He has to give them all up. For that matter, Lev has already given apparently incriminating evidence against Trump and Rudy to the House, which has surely turned around and given it to the SDNY, so there’s almost no way that Lev can’t cut a plea deal against everyone at this point.

This is going to be huge, because it’ll give the SDNY enough evidence to make its case against Rudy Giuliani so overwhelmingly comprehensive, Donald Trump will have to hesitate about trying to pardon him. It also means that once Trump is no longer in office, the SDNY will already have a comprehensive criminal case waiting for him. At this rate the only question is whether the SDNY or New York State arrests Trump first on his way out of the White House. Trump and Rudy are both going to prison.

Trump Finances

Howe on Supreme Court via SCOTUSblog, Trump asks justices to block bank subpoenas, Amy Howe, Dec. 6, 2019. Shortly after 6 p.m., Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg put the 2nd Circuit’s ruling on hold until next Friday, December 13, at 5 p.m. Ginsburg’s order gives the justices time to rule on Trump’s request for a longer stay of the lower court’s decision while he files a petition for review. Ginsburg ordered the House of Representatives to file a response to Trump’s request by 11 a.m. on Wednesday, December 11.

Yesterday President Donald Trump filed a petition at the Supreme Court asking the justices to quash a subpoena to Mazars, his longtime accounting firm, for his financial records. The case is Trump’s second request in less than a month for the court’s help in his battle to shield his financial records and tax documents. At their private conference next week, the justices are scheduled to consider Trump’s petition for review of a lower-court ruling that would require him to turn over tax records to Manhattan’s district attorney, who is seeking them as part of a grand-jury investigation. This afternoon Trump added a third filing, this time asking the justices to block a lower-court ruling that upheld subpoenas for Trump’s financial records to Deutsche Bank, which has long been Trump’s biggest lender, and Capital One.

Trump went to court after the House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Capital One, seeking to block the subpoenas on the ground that they go beyond the committees’ powers. But on Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit largely upheld the subpoenas and ordered the banks to begin providing the documents by December 10.

Today Trump came to the Supreme Court, asking the justices to put the 2nd Circuit’s ruling on hold to give his lawyers time to file a petition for review of the decision. Trump complained that the committees had issued “dragnet” and “extraordinarily broad” subpoenas that do not serve the kind of “legitimate legislative purpose” that the Supreme Court has said is necessary. Instead, Trump wrote, the subpoenas are merely “an attempt to exercise executive power beyond Congress’s legislative reach and to expose” Trump’s “private records for the sake of exposure.” The questions before the Supreme Court, Trump concluded, are both significant and “straightforward”: “whether the President will be allowed to petition for review of an unprecedented demand for his personal papers, or whether he will be deprived of that opportunity because the Committees issued these subpoenas with no incentive to test their validity.”

Stressing the similarities between this case and the Mazars case, Trump urged the justices to follow their ruling in that case and put the 2nd Circuit’s decision on hold immediately (known as an “administrative stay”) until they can rule on his application for a stay, and then keep it on hold until he can file his petition for review. Without a stay, Trump warned, the banks will likely hand over the records, “irrevocably destroying” his “legal right to keep them confidential.”
Trump put the blame for today’s filing squarely on the House of Representatives.

World News

washington post logoiran flag mapWashington Post, U.S. says Iran may have killed 1,000 protesters as administration weighs increasing Mideast military presence, Carol Morello and Missy Ryan, Dec. 6, 2019 (print ed.). A State Department official said the United States has received video that shows troops firing machine guns mounted on trucks at protesters in one incident.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr’s meeting in Mexico could be prelude to greater U.S. involvement against drug cartels, Kevin Sieff, Dec. 6, 2019 (print ed.). The U.S. attorney general met with Mexico's president as President Trump considers designating drug rings terrorist organizations, an issue of bitter disagreement.

U.S. 2020 Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why the ‘Wokest’ Candidates Are the Weakest, Jamelle Bouie, Dec. 6, 2019. If the fantasy that Democrats are all zealots were reality, the primary campaign would have turned out quite differently.

democratic donkey logo“Wokeness,” in this rendering, is an overly rigid commitment to identity politics and social justice ideology. And in their zeal, these woke Democrats are pushing the Democratic Party away from the voters it needs to beat President Trump in 2020.

If this were actually true, you would expect real traction for the wokest candidates in the Democratic presidential race. But it’s been just the opposite. The woke candidates have been the weakest, electorally speaking, and the defining attribute of the Democratic primary has been a preoccupation with the voters that put Trump in the White House.

Roll Call, N.C. Rep. George Holding retiring, cites redistricting as factor, Bridget Bowman and Simone Pathé, Dec. 6, 2019. Holding’s district became more Democratic under the redrawn boundaries.

Rep. George Holding announced Friday that he will not run for Congress again in 2020 in his own district or a neighboring one. The North Carolina Republican’s district became more Democratic on a new congressional map.

Holding is the 18th Republican to retire from Congress and not run for another office so far this cycle. But, unlike Holding, many of the GOP retirements have come from lawmakers in solidly Republican districts, which has raised questions about whether Republicans are optimistic about winning back the House in 2020.

Six House Democrats have announced their retirements so far.

ny times logoNew York Times, When Pete Buttigieg Was One of McKinsey’s ‘Whiz Kids,’ Michael Forsythe, Dec. 6, 2019 (print ed.). Mr. Buttigieg, citing a nondisclosure agreement, has been largely mum about his stint at “the firm.” Former McKinsey employees helped fill in the blanks.

pete buttigieg mayor south bend inThe preternatural poise that got Mr. Buttigieg, right, hired at McKinsey has helped him rise from obscurity to the top tier of the 2020 Democratic primary presidential contest.

On the way there, he ticked all the boxes. Harvard. Rhodes scholar. War veteran. Elected mayor of a midsize city before age 30.

Mr. Buttigieg sells his candidacy, in large part, on his mayoralty of South Bend, Ind., and a civic revitalization there rooted in the kind of data-driven techniques espoused by McKinsey. His nearly three years at “the firm” set him apart from many of his campaign rivals, underpinning his position as a more centrist alternative to progressive front-runners like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

democratic donkey logoYet Mr. Buttigieg’s time at the world’s most prestigious management-consulting company is one piece of his meticulously programmed biography that he mentions barely, if at all, on the campaign trail. Beyond Mr. Buttigieg’s agreement with McKinsey, this is something of an awkward moment to be associated with the consultancy, especially if you happen to be a Democratic politician in an election year shadowed by questions of corporate power and growing wealth inequality.

The firm has long advocated business strategies like raising executive compensation, moving labor offshore and laying off workers to cut costs. And over the last couple of years, reporting in The New York Times and other publications has revealed episodes tarnishing McKinsey’s once-sterling reputation: its work advising Purdue Pharma on how to “turbocharge” opioid sales, its consulting for authoritarian governments in places like China and Saudi Arabia, and its role in a wide-ranging corruption scandal in South Africa. (All of these came after Mr. Buttigieg left the firm.)

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, A roadblock for genealogy buffs: The Trump administration plans huge fee increases for immigration records, Sydney Trent, Dec. 6, 2019 (print ed.). The fees could rise nearly 500 percent for files documenting the arrival of millions of immigrants to the U.S. between the late 19th and mid-20th centuries.

At a time when researching family history is booming, the nation’s immigration and citizenship agency has proposed dramatically hiking fees to access records from the first half of the 20th century. The move has outraged professional and amateur genealogists, who argue that the increase would effectively put valuable immigration information out of reach for many.

The fees would nearly triple, and in many cases, they would rise nearly 500 percent, from $130 to $625 to obtain a single paper file. The little-known Genealogy Program administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services allows genealogists, family historians and other researchers to obtain citizenship and alien registration files, visa applications and other records documenting the lives of deceased immigrants who arrived in the United States between the late 19th and mid-20th centuries.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logojeffrey epstein at harvard universityWashington Post, Former Ohio State athletes call on prosecutors to investigate Wexner, citing Epstein allegations, Jonathan O'Connell and Sarah Ellison, Dec. 6, 2019. Five former Ohio State athletes are asking the Ohio attorney general and federal prosecutors to investigate fashion billionaire Leslie Wexner and his wife, Abigail Wexner, following allegations that Jeffrey Epstein, right, assaulted a woman in a house surrounding the Wexners’ estate outside of Columbus in 1996.

The writers of the letter are former varsity athletes who say they were sexually assaulted by Richard Strauss, who was found to have abused at least 177 athletes while serving as a ohio state buckeyes logouniversity physician until 1998.

In their letter Thursday, the athletes cited an October Washington Post article in which Maria Farmer said she holds the Wexners responsible for her alleged assault by Epstein and his associate Ghislaine Maxwell, as well as a lawsuit Farmer filed. The assault allegedly occurred on property Farmer says was monitored by Abigail Wexner and the Wexner Jeffrey Epstein's friend Leslie Wexner (via cropped screenshot of remarks at American Academy of Achievementsecurity team.

Les Wexner, right, the founder and chief executive of L Brands, the parent company of the Limited and Victoria’s Secret, was also on the university’s board of trustees during some of the years Strauss was working there.

Both Wexners serve on the board of Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, named for the couple after they contributed $100 million. Abigail Wexner is vice chair of Ohio State’s board of trustees.

washington post logoWashington Post, Suspect in fatal Fla. air base shooting is Saudi military pilot who was training in U.S., senior official says, T.S. Strickland, Brittany Shammas, Alex Horton and Kim Bellware​, Dec. 6, 2019. Three people were killed and several others injured, with the shooter also confirmed dead, the local sheriff's office said. The Pensacola shooting comes two days after a gunman opened fire at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam near Honolulu, killing two before shooting and killing himself.

Earlier:  'Gunman who killed at least three at Naval Air Station Pensacola was fatally shot by authorities,  Brittany Shammas, Alex Horton and Kim Bellware, Dec. 6, 2019 (print ed.). An unidentified assailant opened fire Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola, leaving three people dead and several others injured before Florida sheriff’s deputies shot and killed the attacker in the second deadly shooting at a naval base this week.

washington post logoWashington Post, 4 killed in shootout in Florida after armed robbers hijack UPS truck and lead police on high-speed chase, Marisa Iati, Dec. 6, 2019. The two robbers, a UPS driver and a person in a nearby car were killed in the shooting in Miramar, Fla., an FBI agent told reporters. Police said no officers were killed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Slurs appeared on this church after Trump’s election. The investigation found an unlikely suspect — and hoax, Peter Jamison, Dec. 6, 2019. The hateful graffiti in Indiana was part of a string of hate crime reports in 2016. Then the detective on the case began to suspect it was something else.

Inside TrumpWorld

washington post logoWashington Post, How two housekeepers took on the president — and revealed that his company employed undocumented immigrants, Joshua Partlow and David A. Fahrenthold,  It was important for Sandra Diaz to be invisible.

Before entering the Trump family villa, she would tie back her hair, pull on latex gloves and step into delicate paper shoe coverings. She knew not to wear makeup or perfume that might leave the faintest trace of her presence.

As Donald Trump’s personal housekeeper, Diaz was dealing with a fussy celebrity owner who presided like a monarch over the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster long before he was elevated to president. She was an immigrant from Costa Rica working illegally for Trump with a fake Social Security card she had bought for $50. Being invisible was her life’s work.

The years of service that Diaz and other undocumented immigrant housekeepers, cooks, landscapers, greenskeepers, waiters, bellhops, farm hands and caddies devoted to the Trump Organization have given them a remarkable vantage point into the unvarnished lives of the now-first family. They have seen poolside tantrums and holiday arguments. They’ve laughed with the in-laws and watched after the grandkids. Their recollections also show how Trump’s entrance into presidential politics — denouncing illegal immigrants as criminals and job-stealers — upended their lives and prompted some of them to publicly confront their former boss.

Over the past year, The Washington Post has spoken with 48 people who had worked illegally for the Trump Organization at 11 of its properties in Florida, New Jersey, New York and Virginia. These workers spent years — and in some cases nearly two decades — performing the manual labor that keeps Trump’s resorts clean and their visitors fed.

Dec. 5

Impeachment Daily Indexdjt handwave file

 

Impeachment Coverage Noted Above  nancy pelosi nbc sept 26 19 impeachment

washington post logoWashington Post, Impeachment hearings live updates: Pelosi asks committee chairs to proceed with articles of impeachment, ​John Wagner​, Dec. 5, 2019. Pelosi, shown in a file photo above, says House will proceed with articles of impeachment against Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that President Trump’s wrongdoing strikes at the heart of the Constitution and asked House committee chairs to proceed with articles of impeachment, saying lawmakers have “no choice but to act.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that President Trump’s wrongdoing strikes at the heart of the Constitution and asked House committee chairs to proceed with articles of impeachment, saying lawmakers have “no choice but to act.”

U.S. House logoHer address, in which she invoked principles espoused by the nation’s founders, came shortly after Trump went on Twitter to urge House Democrats to impeach him quickly, if they plan to do it, and suggested he would call an expansive list of witnesses during a trial in the Republican-led Senate.

At the heart of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that President Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine in the face of Russian military aggression, to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

• Analysis: Democrats officially move to a new phase — actual impeachment of the president

nancy pelosi djt

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi has gone and done it, Bill Palmer, Dec. 5, 2019. This means we’re going to see full House hearings on impeachment. We’ll see House committees testifying to other House committees. We’ll see the full boat now. The hearings last for however long Nancy Pelosi thinks they should last, whether that be a few weeks or several months.

bill palmer report logo headerAnd yes, there will be a Senate impeachment trial after that – but don’t expect Pelosi to hand impeachment over to the Republican Senate until she’s exhausted every avenue for exposing Trump’s guilt and for convincing the American people that he and his apologists must be removed, thus forcing GOP Senators to think about whether their own individual political careers will be better off by convicting or acquitting him.

Nancy Pelosi knows what she’s doing. She demonstrated that, by waiting to announce the impeachment inquiry until the kind of evidence began emerging that would allow for the general public to get behind impeachment. Now she’s decided that today is the day to formally move into the articles of impeachment stage. For Donald Trump, today is a day of ignominy and worry. Going forward from here, every day of his presidency will be worse for him than the last. We’ll see if Pelosi can actually oust him, or if voters will have to do that in the election. But she sure is dismantling Trump in the process.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr’s chosen prosecutor says he can’t back theory that Russia case was U.S. intelligence setup, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 5, 2019 (print ed.). The john durham o portrait 2 croppedassertion from U.S. Attorney John Durham, right, to Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, could rebut conservatives’ doubts about the origins of the FBI's Russia investigation.

The prosecutor handpicked by Attorney General William P. Barr to scrutinize how U.S. agencies investigated President Trump’s 2016 campaign said he could not offer Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)evidence to the Justice Department’s inspector general to support the suspicions of some conservatives that the case was a setup by American intelligence, people familiar with the matter said.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s office contacted U.S. Attorney John Durham, the prosecutor Barr personally tapped to lead a separate review of the 2016 probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, the people said. The inspector general also contacted several U.S. intelligence agencies.

Among Horowitz’s questions: whether a Maltese professor who interacted with a Trump campaign adviser was actually a U.S. intelligence asset deployed to ensnare the campaign, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the inspector general’s findings have not been made public.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s favorite conspiracy theory takes another hit — from two men he hailed, Aaron Blake, Dec. 5, 2019. President Trump has proclaimed it “perhaps the biggest scandal” in American history, and he has hailed the two men who would allegedly rip the lid off it. But more and more, it’s looking like they won’t deliver the scandalous finding he was counting on.

Trump has played up two probes into the origins of the Russia investigation — one by Inspector General Michael Horowitz and one by U.S. Attorney John Durham — and in both cases he has built up the men themselves. But Washington Post reports on both investigations now suggest the duo are not endorsing Trump’s chief conspiracy theory: that the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was an unfounded witch hunt.

The Post’s Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett reported Wednesday that Durham has told Horowitz he cannot endorse a theory espoused by Trump and other Republicans that the Russia investigation was some kind of setup — in Trump’s words, a “coup” — by U.S. intelligence to take Trump down:

Among Horowitz’s questions: whether a Maltese professor who interacted with a Trump campaign adviser was actually a U.S. intelligence asset deployed to ensnare the campaign, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the inspector general’s findings have not been made public.

But the intelligence agencies said the professor was not among their assets, the people said. And Durham informed Horowitz’s office that his investigation had not produced any evidence that might contradict the inspector general’s findings on that point.

Barrett, Zapotosky and The Post’s Ellen Nakashima also previously reported that Horowitz himself has concluded that a now-former FBI employee may have altered a document related to a warrant to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser, but that it didn’t change the fact that the probe had a proper legal and factual basis.

So right there, we have two investigators — who still might find some misconduct (Horowitz’s report is due out Monday, and Durham’s probe is an ongoing criminal one) — failing to find the kind of vast conspiracy that Trump has alleged.

And it’s worth noting just how much Trump has pushed that theory, and how much he has built up the two men who have apparently failed to substantiate it.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bill Barr just suffered an ugly blow, Bill Palmer, Dec. 4, 2019. If you’ve had the misfortune to hear from the the average pro-Trump conspiracy theorist at any point over the past several months, you’ve surely heard them express confidence that a guy named John Durham was going to end up indicting and arresting every anti-Trump political figure out there. Why? Because Attorney General Bill Barr picked Durham to lead the sham investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation.

bill palmer report logo headerBack in the real world, nothing in U.S. Attorney John Durham’s history suggested that he was going to be remotely willing to announce false findings or bring false criminal charges william barr new oin the name of propping up Donald Trump and Bill Barr, right. It was one thing for Durham to carry out the investigation, after Barr ordered him to. But Durham was always going to end up announcing that he didn’t find anything to support the lunatic theory that the FBI, CIA, Obama, and Hillary were all criminally conspiring to rig the 2016 election against Donald Trump.

Sure enough, the Washington Post is reporting tonight that John Durham has informed DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, left, that his investigation has found michael horwitz headshotnothing. We all saw this coming. Barr probably even saw it coming. After all, he ordered this sham investigation into Trump’s favorite phony conspiracy theories, because it’s what Trump wanted – and Barr is just trying to keep Trump happy enough to keep the door open for Barr to be pardoned on the dozens of felony obstruction of justice charges he’s facing once he’s no longer Attorney General.

Even though this was almost 100% predictable, it’s still an ugly blow for Bill Barr. He’ll now have to publicly argue that Donald Trump’s favorite lunatic conspiracy theories are true, even as his own handpicked federal prosecutor and his own Inspector General are publicly spelling out why these conspiracy theories are false. This helps to further erode whatever political muscle Barr had left. But that’s what tends to happen when an increasingly mentally unstable Trump forces his people to focus on self-defeating nonsense, instead of doing things that might actually have helped him and them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine lawmaker seeking Biden probe meets with Giuliani, David L. Stern and Robyn Dixon​, Dec. 5, 2019. Ukraine lawmaker seeking Biden probe meets with Giuliani, The president’s personal lawyer later said some U.S. aid to Ukraine could face “major obstacles” without investigations into Joe Biden.

President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani met Thursday in Ukraine with one of the key figures working to build a corruption case against Hunter Biden, the Ukraine lawmaker said, after posting Facebook photographs of himself with the former New York mayor.

Andriy Derkach said he pressed Giuliani on the need to set up a joint U.S.-Ukraine investigation into corruption in Ukraine at the meeting in Kyiv. Derkach also vowed to set up an anti-corruption group in the Ukraine parliament.

Giuliani did not make any immediate public comments on the meetings in Ukraine.

But in tweets hours later, he drew connections between future U.S. aid and investigations by Ukraine into former vice president Joe Biden — issues that are already at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

Giuliani tweeted that U.S. assistance to Ukraine on anti-corruption reforms could face a “major obstacle” until the “conversation about corruption in Ukraine” is resolved. Giuliani alleged “compelling” evidence of criminal misdeeds by Biden, but gave no specifics.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mocked Abroad and Assailed at Home, Peter Baker, Dec. 5, 2019 (print ed.). Trump Returns to Face Impeachment; The world stage was not so friendly this week for President Trump, who returned home to a grim couple of weeks ahead, our correspondent writes.

When times turn tough, presidents can hop on Air Force One to escape the country for a while and stride purposefully across the world stage. But the world stage was not so friendly this week for President Trump, who landed back in Washington on Wednesday night to confront a grim couple of weeks ahead.

Mocked by peers behind his back at a NATO meeting in London, Mr. Trump abruptly canceled a news conference and bolted early, only to fly home to a capital in the throes of judging whether he is fit for office. After hobnobbing with the queen, the president now faces the daunting likelihood that by Christmas he will become the third president impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.

The NATO meeting had seemed like an opportunity to demonstrate his global leadership like Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton sought to do with overseas trips during their own impeachment struggles. Scheduled long ago, the meeting allowed Mr. Trump and his allies to assail his domestic foes as “unpatriotic” for proceeding with an impeachment hearing while the commander in chief was overseas and gave him a chance to boast of his success in pressing the allies to invest more in defense.

But the visit was soured by a contentious meeting with President Emmanuel Macron of France and a hot-mic video that captured other world leaders making fun of Mr. Trump. In response, a sullen president said one of the leaders caught talking on the video, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, was “two-faced,” and then slipped out of town without the scheduled wrap-up session with reporters, seemingly intent on not further spoiling the image of a successful visit.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that,’ Pelosi tells reporter who asked her whether she hates Trump, Felicia Sonmez, Dec. 5, 2019. In an extraordinary exchange, the House speaker told the reporter that as a Catholic, she was raised not to hate anyone and prays for the president “all the time.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had just concluded her weekly news conference Thursday and was about to exit the room when a reporter shouted out a question.

“Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?” James Rosen, a reporter for Sinclair Broadcast Group, called out from a seat in the front row.

Most times, Pelosi ignores questions shouted at her in the hallways and briefing rooms of the Capitol. But Rosen’s query appeared to strike a nerve with Pelosi, who stopped in her tracks, turned to face the reporter and delivered an extraordinary rebuttal.

“I don’t hate anybody,” Pelosi said sternly, pointing her finger at Rosen, a reporter she has dismissed as “Mr. Republican Talking Points.” Pelosi then referenced her Catholic upbringing and told Rosen, “Don’t accuse me.”

“I did not accuse you,” the reporter shot back. “I asked a question.”

As the impeachment fight ramps up, President Trump and Republicans have increasingly made the argument that Democrats are pursuing their inquiry simply because they “hate” the president.

“As a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me,” she said. “I don’t hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is a heart full of love, and [I] always pray for the president, and I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time. So, don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”

 Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Michael Gerhardt and Jonathan Turley , from left, abc

Law professors Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Michael Gerhardt and Jonathan Turley, left to right (ABC News).

The Nation, Opinion: The Republicans’ Star Impeachment Scholar Is a Shameless Hack, Elie Mystal, Dec. 5, 2019. Jonathan Turley’s testimony was so inconsistent, it contradicted his own previous statements on impeachment. The House Judiciary Committee held something like a national teach-in on impeachment yesterday. Democrats still believe they can counter the Republican strategy of lying to their base with the somber recitation of facts. So they brought in four legal scholars to explain the constitutional process of impeachment and talk about whether President Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses.

Three of the professors agreed that Trump should be impeached: Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School, Pam Karlan of Stanford Law School, and Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law.

The fourth professor, requested by Republicans on the committee, was Jonathan Turley from George Washington University Law School. Republicans know that all they have to do to outflank the Democrats is serve up talking points Sean Hannity can use on his show. They tapped Turley to do the easy work of poisoning the well with more misinformation.

jonathan turleyTurley, right, did not disappoint. He told Republicans what they wanted to hear right from his opening statement: “I’m concerned about lowering impeachment standard to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. I believe this impeachment not only fails to satisfy the standard of past impeachments, but would create a dangerous precedent for future impeachments…. This would be the first impeachment in history where there would be considerable debate, and in my view, not compelling evidence, of the commission of a crime.”

Turley beclowned himself with his remarks, because this is not the first time Jonathan Turley has testified about impeachment. In 1998, testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee during the Clinton impeachment hearing, Turley said, “No matter how you feel about President Clinton, no matter how you feel about the independent counsel, by his own conduct, he has deprived himself of the perceived legitimacy to govern. You need both political and legal legitimacy to govern this nation, because the President must be able to demand an absolute sacrifice from the public at a moment’s notice.”

It’s impossible to explain the shameless hypocrisy of Turley’s conflicting statements without concluding that his testimony, in both hearings, was offered in bad faith.

Jonathan Turley is punking us. The only dangerous lowering of standards we saw at the hearing was the smuggling of Jonathan Turley onto a panel of experts, the rest of whom were able to testify with academic integrity.

Turley is a paid legal analyst for CBS News. He writes a column for The Hill. And he’s still a tenured professor at George Washington Law. That he was summoned to give such plainly conflicting testimony, and that he was willing to give it even as it directly contradicted his thoughts and writings about prior impeachments, perfectly exemplifies how legal elites and legacy media have failed to meet the challenge of the Donald Trump presidency.

There is simply no professional or societal downside for people like Turley in making these bad, intellectually dishonest arguments. Turley himself was a random environmental law wonk before he made himself famous during the Clinton impeachment years. He made the media rounds then, calling himself a “Democrat” who was willing to speak truth to power about the “serious” nature of Clinton’s misbehavior. Back then, Turley was lauded by people like Rush Limbaugh for demanding that Clinton’s own Secret Service agents be subpoenaed to testify about what they know.

You’ll note that Turley made no such demands yesterday of former national security adviser John Bolton or Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Instead of highlighting the fact that Trump is obstructing justice by refusing to allow these people to testify, Turley blamed the Democrats for moving too fast.

You don’t need a law degree to know that everything Jonathan Turley said yesterday was drenched in his own hypocrisy. His testimony was an attempt to distract and dissemble, offered at the behest of the Republican Party, which tapped him likely because it couldn’t find a legal scholar with less partisan baggage to make the same bad-faith arguments. Ken Starr or Jeanine Pirro would have been too obvious for the Republicans’ purposes; Turley’s the hack they call when they don’t want to look like they’re calling in a hack.

Elie Mystal is the executive editor of Above the Law and a contributing writer for "The Nation," as well as the legal editor of WNYC’s "More Perfect."

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside Trump’s anti-impeachment spin factory, Sarah Ellison, Dec. 5, 2019. From a bunker under the Oval Office, two temporary White House hires guide the president’s communications strategy.

Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Michael Gerhardt and Jonathan Turley , from left, abc

Law professors Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Michael Gerhardt and Jonathan Turley (ABC News).

Palmer Report, Opinion: How Professor Pamela S. Karlan carved up Donald Trump on live national television, Robert Harrington, Dec. 5, 2019. Professor Karlan was that rare thing: a scholar on fire. Of the four Constitutional scholars who were called to testify, and each in their own way was compelling, for my money Professor Pamela S. Karlan was the most impressive.

bill palmer report logo headerRanking member Doug Collins said in his opening statement, among other things, that Karlan and her colleagues, “couldn’t have possibly actually digested the Adam Schiff report from yesterday or the Republican response in any real way.” Karlan responded with appropriate indignance, “… here Mr. Collins I would like to say to you, sir, that I read every one of the live transcripts of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts. So I am insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don’t care about those facts. But everything I read on those occasions tells me that when president Trump invited – indeed demanded – foreign involvement in our upcoming election, he struck at the very heart of what makes this a republic to which we pledge allegiance.”

She concluded, “Put simply, a president should resist foreign influence in our elections. Not demand it and not welcome it. If we are to keep faith with our Constitution and our Republic, president Trump must be held to account.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The House Should Go Big in Framing Impeachment Articles Against Trump, Carolyn Eisenberg (professor of U.S. history and foreign policy at Hofstra University), Dec. 5, 2019. Their findings and scope will reverberate through time and set the terms of possible reforms.

For House Democrats, there is a powerful temptation to narrow the grounds for impeachment. By adhering to a simple narrative about President Trump’s criminal actions in relation to Ukraine, they hope it will be easier to mobilize public support than if they levied a more complex set of charges.

In the impeachment of Richard Nixon, the Democratic-controlled Judiciary Committee faced a similar choice. Despite significant dissent, the committee ended up limiting itself to three articles of impeachment, all connected to the domestic crimes of Watergate.

But as House committee chairmen begin the process of drawing up articles of impeachment, it is worth considering that its findings and their scope will reverberate through time. Long after the next election, they will condition how Americans look upon this period of our history and what correctives might be found.

For Nixon’s impeachment, there was actually a fourth article of impeachment. It encompassed more serious offenses and incited intense debate among the members. Introduced by Representative John Conyers of Michigan, it charged the president with “the submission to the Congress of false and misleading statements concerning the existence, scope and nature of American bombing operations in Cambodia in derogation of the power of Congress to declare war, to make appropriations and to raise and support armies.”

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Perspective: Is this wall-to-wall media coverage pointless? Margaret Sullivan, right, Dec. 5, 2019. How should journalists respond to the stalemate, other than to keep doing exactly what they’ve been doing?

The hint of a possible solution appears in the tracking of public opinion on impeachment at Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com, under the headline, “Plenty Of People Are Persuadable On Impeachment.”

U.S. Sexual Assaults

ny times logoNew York Times, Uber: 3,045 Sexual Assaults Reported in U.S. Rides Last Year, Kate Conger, Dec. 5, 2019. In its first safety study, the ride hailing company also detailed nine murders and 58 fatal crashes on its 1.3 billion rides in the U.S. in 2018.

Uber said on Thursday that it had reports of 3,045 sexual assaults during its rides in the United States in 2018, with nine people murdered and 58 killed in crashes, in its first study detailing unsafe incidents on the ride-hailing platform.

The number of incidents represented a fraction — just 0.0002 percent — of Uber’s 1.3 billion rides in the United States last year, the company said.

There are few comparable figures to judge Uber’s safety record against. The New York Police Department, which keeps a register of sex crimes and rapes that occur on transit systems, counted 533 in 2018.

Inside DC

CBS News, After pleading guilty, Republican Duncan Hunter barred from casting House votes, Rebecca Kaplan, Dec. 5, 2019. Congressman Duncan Hunter, right, who pleaded guilty on Tuesday to misusing campaign funds, has been informed by the House Ethics Committee that he cannot cast votes.

duncan hunter oThe House rules dictate that any member who pleads guilty to a crime that could incur a sentence of two or more years "should refrain from voting on any question at a meeting of the House or of the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union, unless or until judicial or executive proceedings result in reinstatement of the resumption of the innocence of such Member or until the Member is reelected to the House after the date of such conviction."

Hunter last cast a vote Wednesday. He did not vote Thursday. The California Republican pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal campaign funds, reversing his prior not guilty plea after spending months denying the allegations against him.

He admitted that he had taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash so that he and his wife, Margaret, who was also his campaign manager, could maintain their lifestyle. Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty in June.

The plea agreement said the Hunters used more than $150,000 in campaign funds to pay for everything from fast food meals and movie outings to luxury vacations and plane tickets for their pet rabbits. The congressman also used more than $1,000 in campaign funds to pay for a ski trip on 2010 with someone prosecutors described as "one of his girlfriends."

U.S. Department of Justice,

, Attorney Gen. William Barr, Dec. 3, 2019 (35:50 min. video). Justice Department leadership announce the recipients of the Third Annual Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing, recognizing the exceptional work of 19 law enforcement officers and deputies from 12 jurisdictions across the country.

Legal Schnauzer, Opinion: AG William Barr hints that cop critics should not receive police protection, suggesting thugs with badges should be free to wreak havoc in communities, Roger Shuler, Dec. 5, 2019. U.S. Attorney General William Barr said earlier this week that if some communities do not start showing more respect for cops, they might not get police protection. (See video above.)

Barr made the remarks while presenting the Third Annual Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service in Policing. Are Barr's comments pure nonsense? We would say yes, given that he seems to be suggesting that citizens whose taxpayer dollars fund law enforcement might not receive protection if they fail to bow sufficiently to cops.

Barr also seems to ignore widely reported incidents of cops trafficking in violence against citizens, rather than offering protection. Finally, Barr's remarks are wildly out of line with the Schnauzer household's experiences with officers, which we have reported on frequently here at the blog -- and we happen to be white liberals who have been attacked by cop thugs while living in two bright red states, Alabama and Missouri -- even though it is clear black Americans receive the brunt of police misconduct.

Before I started reporting on political and legal corruption in Alabama -- much of it tied to statewide political figures, such as Jeff Sessions, Luther Strange, Bob Riley, Rob Riley, Bill Pryor, and Doug Jones -- my wife, Carol, and I had sparkling clean records and never had experienced a significant encounter with cops.
Now, we both have been physically beaten by cops and spent time in jails -- me in Alabama (for five months); Carol in Missouri (for a few hours, with her time reduced because she needed a trip to a hospital for treatment of a broken arm, courtesy of cops.)

As for William Barr, it's not fully clear what he meant with his recent remarks. From HuffPost:

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for clarification on who specifically Barr was referring to when he mentioned “communities” and what he meant by people finding themselves without police protection.

But American Bridge, a liberal super PAC that first flagged the comments, said the attorney general was referring to communities of color that have historically had a contentious relationship with law enforcement due to police brutality, mass incarceration and racial profiling.

“The Attorney General isn’t being subtle and that shouldn’t surprise us considering this administration’s record,” American Bridge spokesperson Jeb Fain told HuffPost in a statement. “When it comes to communities of color, he sees justice and equal protection under the law as subject to conditions.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, As France Strikes, Commuters Suffer and Protests Begin, Staff Report, Dec. 5, 2019. Workers across the country are staging walkouts in opposition to President Emmanuel Macron’s pension proposals. The unrest poses a new challenge for Mr. Macron, whose top-down management style has drawn criticism.

A protest against changes to France’s pension system brought parts of the country to a grinding halt on Thursday, with nationwide strikes shutting down transportation and leaving schools and hospitals unstaffed and basic government services unmet.

Huge crowds of railway workers, teachers, students, hospital workers and other protesters peacefully marched down Paris’s wide boulevard Magenta, and amid blaring loudspeakers and occasional firecrackers, commuters struggled to find ways to get to work. Subways were largely shut, children left for school early and only about one in eight suburban trains were running in many areas, if they were running at all.

The festive mood in Paris gave way to a more tense one as the day wore on, as sporadic violence broke out, especially near the Place de la République. Some violent protesters burned vehicles and threw projectiles at the police there, and officers fired tear gas and charged the group. There were also reports of isolated standoffs in other cities, including in Bordeaux, where security forces also fired tear gas.

2020 U.S. Elections

washington post logojoe biden oWashington Post, Kerry endorses Biden, saying he has character, experience to beat Trump, Dan Balz, Dec. 5, 2019. The former secretary of state and 2004 Democratic nominee said Joe Biden, right, has the leadership skills to restore the nation’s standing abroad and confront urgent problems at home.

ny times logoNew York Times, Joe Biden Challenges Man to Push-Up Contest After Testy Exchange, Thomas Kaplan and Katie Glueck, Dec. 5, 2019. Shortly after John Kerry, the former secretary of state, endorsed Mr. Biden in the 2020 Democratic primary, the former vice president had a heated confrontation with a voter. ‘You’re a Damn Liar, Man,’ Biden Tells Voter in Iowa

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had a tense exchange with a voter questioning Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings. Mr. Biden also challenged the man to do push-ups.

Global Cyber Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Two Russians charged in hacking schemes that officials say swiped tens of millions from unsuspecting victims, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky​, Dec. 5, 2019. Authorities said many of the thousands of U.S. victims were small to midsized businesses, including a dairy company in Ohio, a luggage store in New Mexico and an order of religious sisters.

Inside DC: Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump nominee rated ‘not qualified’ by American Bar Association was just confirmed as a federal judge, Reis Thebault, Dec. 5, 2019. Sarah Pitlyk's appointment Tuesday was seen as yet another mark of the influence of the Federalist Society, a conservative nonprofit organization.

The latest of President Trump’s confirmed federal judges has been assailed by fellow lawyers for her lack of trial experience and has been lambasted by reproductive rights advocates for her vigorous opposition to abortion, surrogacy and in vitro fertilization.

And in a near-party-line vote Tuesday, the Senate approved the nomination of Sarah Pitlyk, making the conservative lawyer the newest federal judge for the U.S. District Court in St. Louis. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined the Democrats to oppose Pitlyk. Every other Republican present voted for her.

Pitlyk’s confirmation is a victory for Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who have sought a dramatic and deeply consequential reshaping of the federal judiciary, installing a dizzying number of judges and energizing Republican voters.

Dec. 4

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Impeachment Coverage Noted Above

Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Michael Gerhardt and Jonathan Turley , from left, abc

Law professors Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Michael Gerhardt and Jonathan Turley, left to right (ABC News).

washington post logoWashington Post, Professors testify that Trump’s conduct is grounds for removal, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, Dec. 4, 2019.  Probe moves to new phase with House Judiciary hearing. A 41-member panel with a history of partisan brawls is hearing from four constitutional experts on the historical underpinnings of impeachment in what could be a chaotic proceeding.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Trump Committed Impeachable Offenses, 3 Scholars Say, Michael D. Shear, Dec. 4, 2019. The House Judiciary Committee is debating whether to draft and approve articles of impeachment. Lawmakers are hearing from legal scholars about the constitutional basis for impeachment. Stay here for live video and updates.

U.S. House logoBut an expert invited by Republicans argued that the case so far is “slipshod” and premature, during the first formal impeachment hearing in the Judiciary Committee. The panel kicked off what is likely to be a sharply partisan brawl over whether to draft and approve articles of impeachment against President Trump.

Lawmakers made their opening statements as they prepared to hear from legal scholars about the constitutional basis for impeachment and whether Mr. Trump’s actions meet those standards.

djt rudy giuliani

Donald Trump and his counsel Rudoph Giuliani are shown in a file photo.

washington post logorudy giuliani lev parnas trump international CustomWashington Post, Phone call records show frequent contact between Giuliani and White House, Paul Sonne, Rosalind S. Helderman and Greg Miller, Dec. 4, 2019. Phone-call records disclosed in the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry report released Tuesday show extensive contact between President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and the White House during key moments of the Ukraine saga.

The call records provide powerful circumstantial evidence that Giuliani was coordinating with the White House on his Ukraine gambit, something Giuliani has previously acknowledged. The records also show contact between a Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas (shown together in a Reuters photo this fall at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC), and one of Trump’s key defenders in Congress, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.).

Rudy Giuliani introduces then-candidate Donald Trump at an Iowa campaign rally in September 2016. (Source: Flickr/John Pemble, CC BY-ND 2.0)

ny times logoNew York Times, Giuliani, Facing Scrutiny, Travels to Europe to Interview Ukrainians, Kenneth P. Vogel and Benjamin Novak, Dec. 4, 2019. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, has been overseas this week to talk with former prosecutors for a documentary series intended to debunk the impeachment case.

Even as Democrats intensified their scrutiny this week of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s role in the pressure campaign against the Ukrainian government that is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, Mr. Giuliani has been in Europe continuing his efforts to shift the focus to purported wrongdoing by President Trump’s political rivals.

Mr. Giuliani, shown above in a 2016 presidential campaign photo, the president’s personal lawyer, met in Budapest on Tuesday with a former Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, right, who has become a key figure in the impeachment yuriy lutsenkoinquiry. He then traveled to Kyiv on Wednesday seeking to meet with other former Ukrainian prosecutors whose claims have been embraced by Republicans, including Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn H. Kulyk, according to people familiar with the effort.

The former prosecutors, who have faced allegations of corruption, all played some role in promoting claims about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a former United States ambassador to Ukraine and Ukrainians who disseminated damaging information about Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in 2016.

Those claims — some baseless and others with key disputed elements — have been the foundations of the effort by Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani to pressure the Ukrainian government to commit itself to investigations that would benefit Mr. Trump heading into his re-election campaign. That effort in turn has led to the impeachment proceedings in the House against the president.

Mr. Giuliani is using the trip, which has not been previously reported, to help prepare more episodes of a documentary series for a conservative television outlet promoting his pro-Trump, anti-impeachment narrative. His latest moves to advance the theories propounded by the prosecutors amount to an audacious effort to give the president’s supporters new material to undercut the House impeachment proceedings and an eventual Senate trial.

It was Mr. Giuliani’s earlier interactions with some of the same Ukrainian characters that set the stage for the impeachment inquiry in the first place, and also led to an investigation by federal prosecutors into whether Mr. Giuliani violated federal lobbying laws.

Mr. Giuliani’s trip has generated concern in some quarters of the State Department, coming amid scrutiny of his work with American diplomats earlier this year on the pressure campaign. His trip to Budapest and Kyiv suggests that he is unbowed by the intense scrutiny that has enveloped him and his associates, including revelations from the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday of frequent calls from Mr. Giuliani to the White House and other figures in the pressure campaign at key moments this year.

The European trip was organized around the filming of a multipart television series featuring Mr. Giuliani that is being produced and aired by a conservative cable channel, One America News, or OAN.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Put His Interests Ahead of Country’s, Impeachment Report Finds, Michael D. Shear and Nicholas Fandos, Dec. 4, 2019 (print ed.). House Democrats on Tuesday asserted that President Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to help him in the 2020 presidential election, releasing an impeachment report that found the president “placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States.”

djt maga hat speech uncredited CustomThe report by the House Intelligence Committee was a sweeping indictment of the president’s behavior, concluding that he sought to undermine American democracy and endangered national security, then worked to conceal his actions from Congress. Democrats left it to another committee to decide whether to recommend Mr. Trump’s impeachment, but their report presented what are all but certain to be the grounds on which the House votes to formally charge him.

“The founding fathers prescribed a remedy for a chief executive who places his personal interests above those of the country: impeachment,” it said.

The intelligence panel adopted it, strictly along partisan lines, hours after its release.

Though the committee indicated it would continue investigative work, the report’s release set in motion the next phase in the impeachment of Mr. Trump, accelerating a constitutional clash that has happened only three times in the nation’s history. Both parties are poised for a raucous debate in the House Judiciary Committee over whether to charge the president with high crimes and misdemeanors, the Constitution’s threshold for removal, and a likely partisan vote by the House to do so before Christmas.

The 300-page report provided some new details of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s frequent calls to the White House. But for the most part, it described the account that emerged over more than two months of sworn testimony from diplomats and other administration officials of how the president and his allies pressured Ukraine to announce investigations of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats, while withholding nearly $400 million in military assistance and a White House meeting for Ukraine’s president.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Mysterious ‘-1’ and Other Call Records Show How Giuliani Pressured Ukraine, Sharon LaFraniere and Julian E. Barnes, Dec. 4, 2019 (print ed.). The Democrats’ rudy giulianiimpeachment report illustrates the work of Rudy Giuliani, right, the president’s personal lawyer, in an irregular foreign policy.

Phone records cited in the impeachment report released Tuesday by the House Intelligence Committee illustrate the sprawling reach of Mr. Giuliani’s campaign first to remove the ambassador, Marie L. Yovanovitch, then to force Ukraine’s new government to announce criminal investigations for Mr. Trump’s political gain.

That effort accelerated through the spring and summer into a full-court press to force Ukraine’s new president to accede to Mr. Trump’s wishes or risk losing $391 million in military assistance desperately needed to hold off Russian-led forces waging a separatist war in eastern Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Who Is Noah Feldman? Scholar Specializes in Constitutional Law, Eileen Sullivan, Dec. 4, 2019. Mr. Feldman, a professor at Harvard Law School who has written widely about religion and the law, has said the country faces a constitutional crisis.

Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard Law School, is part of a vanishing breed, a public intellectual equally at ease with writing law review articles, books aimed at both popular and volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotscholarly audiences and regular opinion columns, all leaning left but with a distinct contrarian streak.

In October, he declared that the country was in a constitutional crisis, caused by the events that followed the disclosure of a July 25 phone call between President Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, of Ukraine. When Mr. Trump told Congress that he would not participate in any of the House’s impeachment proceedings, it left the country with “situation where the Constitution does not provide a clear, definitive answer to a basic problem of governance,” Mr. Feldman wrote.

ny times logoNew York Times, Who Is Pamela Karlan? Legal Leader Committed to Progressive Causes, Lola Fadulu, Dec. 4, 2019. Ms. Karlan, a Stanford Law School professor, counts a landmark gay rights case as among her litigation experience. She is the director of Stanford Law’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic. Pamela S. Karlan’s formidable reputation as a scholar and Supreme Court advocate, coupled with a deep commitment to progressive causes, have made her a leader of the sometimes disorganized liberal legal movement.

Ms. Karlan, 60, received bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees from Yale and clerked for Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the Supreme Court. She is now a director of Stanford Law School’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic. Ms. Karlan made regular media appearances discussing the 2000 presidential election and recount, and was one of the authors of “When Elections Go Bad: The Law of Democracy and the Presidential Election of 2000.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Who Is Michael J. Gerhardt? Professor Made Impeachment His Specialty, Emily Cochrane, Dec. 4, 2019. Mr. Gerhardt’s research has focused on constitutional conflicts between presidents and Congress.

For the second time, Michael J. Gerhardt will appear before Congress as an expert on impeachment. In 1998, when President Bill Clinton was facing impeachment, he was the only expert on a panel of 19 witnesses summoned by both parties to offer insight into the process.

Michael Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina’s law school, has focused on constitutional conflicts between presidents and Congress.

For the second time, Michael J. Gerhardt will appear before Congress as an expert on impeachment. In 1998, when President Bill Clinton was facing impeachment, he was the only expert on a panel of 19 witnesses summoned by both parties to offer insight into the process.

ny times logoNew York Times, Who Is Jonathan Turley? Republicans’ Lone Expert on Impeachment, Eileen Sullivan, Dec. 4, 2019. The Republicans’ lone expert witness, the law professor Jonathan Turley, has represented whistle-blowers and terrorism suspects. A professor at George Washington University Law School, he has represented whistle-blowers, members of Congress and terrorism suspects.

Jonathan Turley is a well-known legal expert, often seen on cable news talking about a range of issues including tort law, espionage, constitutional law and, most recently, impeachment. He is a professor at George Washington University Law School and has represented clients from a variety of backgrounds and political affiliations.

“This is a daunting but not unfamiliar challenge as an academic,” Mr. Turley wrote on Tuesday on his blog about his scheduled appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.

A graduate of the University of Chicago and Northwestern’s law school, Mr. Turley joined the staff of George Washington’s law school in 1990, and according to his biography, was the youngest person named to an academic chair in the school’s history.

washington post logoWashington Post, Explosive personalities ready to battle as probe enters new phase, Elise Viebeck, Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade, Dec. 4, 2019. The spotlight shifts from the more sober House Intelligence Committee to the House Judiciary Committee, where the president’s loyalists and pro-impeachment Democrats are intent on causing new friction.

• Live updates: Spotlight shifts to the House Judiciary Committee

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker: GOP tries to connect dots on Biden and Ukraine and comes up short, Glenn Kessler, Dec. 4, 2019. GOP tries to connect dots on Biden and Ukraine, but comes up shortSen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) suggest there is a connection between a “raid” in Ukraine and then- Vice President Joe Biden’s calls in February 2016. But there’s less to those events than meets the eye.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Melania Trump goes completely off the rails, Bill Palmer, Dec. 4, 2019. It’s generally accepted within the Resistance that a child like Barron Trump should never be invoked in political discourse except when necessary. His name did come up in passing today in House impeachment hearings, and we can debate whether that should have happened. But what’s not up for debate is that Melania Trump responded in completely absurd fashion.

bill palmer report logo headerOne of the legal experts testifying before the House impeachment inquiry today tried to punctuate Donald Trump’s attempt at acting like a dictator by pointing out that he even went so far as to name his son “Barron,” as if Trump wanted to be a Baron. Was this fair game or what it gratuitous? You can decide. Here’s what Melania Trump decided to tweet about it: “A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”

In general, no one is going to begrudge a mother’s earnest attempt at protecting her child. But this tweet doesn’t read like it was earnest or legitimate. Instead it reads like it was written by a political adviser. In fact Melania’s tweet is trying just as hard to politicize and weaponize Barron as what she’s alleging today’s witness did. But for Melania, it’s far uglier than that.

This comes even as Melania Trump stands there and publicly says nothing about the fact that her husband has been kidnapping immigrant children and locking them in cages, and in some instances murdering these children through depraved and intentional mistreatment. Melania also said nothing when her husband recently attacked sixteen year old climate activist Greta Thunberg. Her tweet today stands out as exceedingly disingenuous.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Administration Cutting Off Food Stamps for Nearly 755,000, Lola Fadulu, Dec. 4, 2019. The Department of Agriculture approved the first of three rules that are ultimately expected to cut 3 million from the federal food-stamp program. The Trump administration, brushing aside tens of thousands of protest letters, gave final approval on Wednesday to a rule that will remove nearly 755,000 people from the federal food-stamp program by strictly enforcing federal work requirements.

The rule, which was proposed by the Department of Agriculture in February, would make states enforce work requirements for able-bodied adults without children that governors have routinely been allowed to waive, especially for areas in economic distress. The economy has improved under the Trump administration, the department argued, and assistance to unemployed, able-bodied adults was no longer necessary in a strong job market.

“Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream,” Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary, said. “We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand.”

But anti-poverty groups said the administration’s focus on the unemployment rate was misleading.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Abortion Bills Are So Tough That Some Conservatives Have Qualms, Timothy Williams, Dec. 4, 2019. Another surge of stringent abortion limits is expected in state legislatures next year, highlighting a rift among conservatives about political strategy. Months after state lawmakers around the country approved some of the most restrictive limits on abortion seen in decades, some states want to push still further.

Leading the way is Ohio, where Republicans are contemplating banning nearly all abortions from the time of conception, with no exceptions for rape or incest, and the highly unusual step of allowing women who have abortions to be prosecuted for murder.

Especially contentious in the Ohio proposal is a provision that would direct doctors treating women with a sometimes life-threatening condition when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus to try to “reimplant an ectopic pregnancy into the woman’s uterus.”

After last spring’s wave of state-led campaigns to limit abortions, a second surge is expected in early 2020 as legislators in Republican-dominated states begin new lawmaking sessions. Tennessee, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina and Idaho could all quickly approve bills next year that would in effect ban abortion. With a presidential election looming, the issue will be used by Democrats and Republicans alike to raise campaign funds and to spur election turnout.

Roll Call, Washington Democratic Rep. Denny Heck not running for reelection, Bridget Bowman, Dec. 4, 2019. Heck said investigating Russian election interference and impeachment denny heck o Custom‘have rendered my soul weary.’ Rep. Denny Heck announced Wednesday that he is not running for reelection. The Washington Democrat, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, cited the impeachment investigation as part of the reason for his retirement.

“The countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary,” Heck wrote in a Medium post.

“I will never understand how some of my colleagues, in many ways good people, could ignore or deny the President’s unrelenting attack on a free press, his vicious character assassination of anyone who disagreed with him, and his demonstrably very distant relationship with the truth,” Heck wrote.

Heck, 67, also noted serving in Congress takes a toll since it takes him away from his wife. “At our age, however many ‘good years’ we have left together is not a growing number,” he wrote.

Heck was first elected to represent Washington’s 10th District, which includes Olympia, in 2012. Before coming to Congress, he served in the Washington state House and was a former CEO and broadcaster for TVW, the state’s version of C-SPAN.

U.S. Justice System

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Con Man’s Wild Testimony Sent Dozens to Jail, and 4 to Death Row, Pamela Colloff, Dec. 4, 2019. Paul Skalnik is a con man and criminal. Now a man may be executed because of his dubious testimony. Why did prosecutors rely on him as an informant?

When detective John Halliday paid a visit to the Pinellas County Jail on Dec. 4, 1986, his highest-profile murder case was in trouble. Halliday, who was 35 and investigated homicides for the local sheriff’s office, had spent more than a decade policing Pinellas County, a peninsula edged by white-sugar-sand beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast, west of Tampa. It is a place that outpaces virtually all other counties in the nation in the number of defendants it has sentenced to death. Prosecutors who pursued the biggest cases there in the 1980s relied on Halliday, who embodied the county’s law-and-order ethos. Powerfully built and 6-foot-4, with a mane of dirty blond hair and a tan mustache, he was skilled at marshaling the facts that prosecutors needed to win convictions.

He had worked the case for the past year and a half, ever since the body of a 14-year-old girl named Shelly Boggio was found, nude, floating in an inland waterway near the town of Indian Rocks Beach. Her murder was singular in its violence. Her body bore 31 stab wounds, many of them to her hands, as if she had tried to shield herself from the ferocity of the attack. She was most likely still alive, the medical examiner determined, when she was dragged into the water and left to drown. Her older sister identified her by the silver ring, eagle-shaped and inset with turquoise, that she wore on her left hand.

The crime scene yielded few clues. No murder weapon was left behind, and no fingerprints or other forensic evidence was recovered. If Boggio was sexually assaulted, the medical examiner found, any trace of sperm may have been washed away during her time in the water. “It was one of Pinellas County’s cruelest murders,” The St. Petersburg Times observed, “and there was little evidence.”

This article is a partnership between ProPublica, where Pamela Colloff is a senior reporter, and The New York Times Magazine, where she is a staff writer.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls Canadian prime minister ‘two-faced’ at NATO summit, Michael Birnbaum, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker​, Dec. 4, 2019. President Trump found himself the scorned child on the global playground as widely circulated video showed some of his foreign counterparts gossiping about and mocking him.

President Trump, who has demeaned his rivals for being laughed at around the world, found himself the scorned child on the global playground at a NATO summit here Wednesday, as widely circulated video showed leaders gossiping about and mocking him.

The video, captured at a Buckinham Palace reception Tuesday evening, appeared to show Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and others laughing about Trump’s freewheeling news conferences earlier in the day. “I just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” Trudeau told the others, dropping his hand toward the ground to dramatize his retelling.

And so it was Wednesday morning that Trump presented a sulking, brooding president, as he slapped down Trudeau as “two-faced” and engaged with other foreign counterparts at a secluded estate here outside London.

As the summit concluded, Trump abruptly canceled a planned news conference, arguing that he had already answered so many questions from reporters in other settings during his visit to Britain.

He took off for Washington as the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing was underway. Though his conduct here fit his pattern of disruption at international summits, Trump did not make the fiery threats that have punctuated previous gatherings. NATO leaders were almost giddy as they survived another encounter with Trump with their alliance intact. Trump’s canceled news conference — eliminating one last chance for him to take aim at them — was to many the departure gift.

• Analysis: A brief history of world leaders laughing at Trump
• British tabloids see a scolding in queen’s look at Princess Anne during meeting with Trumps

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Journalist’s Murder in Malta Puts Democracy on Trial, Editorial Board, Dec. 4, 2019. But the arrest of a well-connected businessman is a sign that daphne caruana galizia croppedcourageous reporting can make a difference.

Journalists are sometimes accused of giving disproportionate attention to crimes against their own. The reason they do so is not self-aggrandizement; it is that the increasingly frequent murder or repression of reporters is rarely random, and most often it is the work of people in power seeking to extinguish an unwelcome light on their corruption. To report on the fate of silenced journalists is to continue their work.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, right, was such a reporter. When she was blown up by a car bomb in October 2017 in the tiny Mediterranean country of Malta, population roughly 450,000, the prime minister, Joseph Muscat, acknowledged that the list of potential suspects — people who had been scorched by her fearless reporting — was very long. At the time she was killed, Ms. Caruana Galizia was reporting on mysterious offshore companies that she said were linked to Maltese politicians.

Three men were soon arrested. But they were accused of being the contract killers, hired to kill the 53-year-old blogger for about $165,000, and with time it came to seem that the real masterminds of the murder would never be revealed.

That changed with the chance arrest of a suspected middleman who offered information about Ms. Caruana Galizia’s murder in exchange for immunity. Last week, one of Malta’s most prominent businessmen — and a prominent subject of Ms. Caruana Galizia’s reporting — was arrested as he was trying to leave on his yacht. He in turn offered to testify against two senior government officials and others “close to the prime minister” in exchange for a pardon.

Thousands of Maltese, led by members of Ms. Caruana Galizia’s family, turned up outside Castille, the ornate seat of the prime minister in the capital, Valletta, demanding his resignation. Finally, on Sunday, Mr. Muscat said he would resign — but not until his Labour Party selected a new leader on Jan. 12. Protesters may not accept that delay, though.

U.S. 2020 Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp taps Kelly Loeffler to fill Senate seat, a move that could set up clash with Trump, Robert Costa and Max Blau​, Dec. 4, 2019. The president's allies pushed for Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R), a staunch defender of the president, to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson (R), who is retiring at the end of the month.

CounterPunch, Investigative History: RIP Fred Hampton: a Black Visionary Assassinated by the FBI, Jefferson Morley, right, Dec. 4, 2019. Fifty years ago this week, a squad of Chicago police officers killed Black jefferson morley newPanther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in a pre-dawn raid on the apartment where they were sleeping. In the decades since, a revealing body of evidence has emerged showing that Hampton was the victim of a political assassination, sanctioned at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

fred hampton graphicThe story matters today, but not because the FBI still engages in assassination. The Bureau targets so-called “Black Identity Extremists” on flimsy grounds, but there’s no evidence that it has killed any of them. Indeed, FBI director Christopher Wray says new agents are required to study COINTELPRO precisely to learn what not to do.

What Wray prefers not to tell his employees or the public is that one of his predecessors, J. Edgar Hoover, instigated the murder of a promising African-American political leader, and got away with it. Hampton’s murder was a textbook example of how U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies robbed the country of hope and peaceful change and were never held accountable.

FBI logoNo one was ever convicted for Hampton’s murder. To this day, many journalists and historians are unwilling to state that Hoover and other senior U.S. officials countenanced the assassination of domestic foes. Yet compelling circumstantial evidence demonstrates they did exactly that in the case of Fred Hampton.

The story of Hampton’s assassination is not as well-known as that of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, and Malcolm X. In 2018 a diverse group of citizens formed the Truth and Reconciliation Committee which calls for the re-opening of the investigations of those four famous killings. (I am a member.) The story of Fred Hampton shows why this is necessary.

Hampton’s terrible murder has much in common with the deaths of JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcolm. It is an unsolved political crime, rife with official malfeasance and wrapped in mealy-mouthed media coverage.

Who Was Fred Hampton?

At age 21 Hampton was an honor student from suburban Chicago and an experienced leader. He got his start as an organizer for the integrationist National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He came to prominence as leader of the Black Panther Party, which scorned the NAACP as too accommodating to white people. At a time when many black militants favored dashikis and leather jackets, Hampton wore a button-down shirt and a pullover.

A self-described “revolutionary,” Hampton envisioned the future of the civil rights movement as a “rainbow coalition” of white, black, brown, yellow, and red people. Jesse Jackson would later adopt the term as the name of his organization and the theme of his ground-breaking presidential campaigns of 1984 and 1988. In short, Hampton was a charismatic leader with a vision of marrying the social gospel of King to the militant nationalism of Malcolm X.

Not coincidentally, Malcolm X, King, and Hampton were assassinated in the span of four years.

#MeToo Clergy Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, Buffalo Bishop Malone resigns following accusations that he mishandled sex abuse cases, Chico Harlan, Dec. 4, 2019. The Vatican on Wednesday announced the resignation of Bishop Richard J. Malone, who stoked fury in his Buffalo Diocese over the alleged mishandling of sexual abuse claims and whose tenure became emblematic of the Catholic Church’s struggle to overcome its central crisis.

Under Malone’s watch, Buffalo had become perhaps the U.S. church’s most scandal-tainted diocese. It faces an FBI probe and more than 200 lawsuits. Malone pledged to institute reforms, but he was instead battered by accusations of engaging in a coverup and by embarrassing leaks. One whistleblower said she found a 300-page dossier on accused priests hidden in a supply closet near a vacuum cleaner.

In a short statement, the Vatican said Malone would be replaced on a temporary basis by Albany’s bishop, Edward B. Scharfenberger.

Dec. 3

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Impeachment Coverage Noted Above

washington post logoWashington Post, Schiff: Trump’s Ukraine actions constitute bribery. ‘That’s exactly what’s gone on here,’ Karoun Demirjian​, Dec. 3, 2019. The House Intelligence chairman said it is up to the Judiciary Committee to decide whether to pursue such a charge among articles of impeachment.

adam schiff squareHouse Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, right, said in an interview Tuesday that President Trump’s actions vis-a-vis Ukraine meet the constitutional definition of bribery — but that it’s the Judiciary Committee that must decide whether to recommend impeaching him on those grounds.

“This is certainly, I think, what the founders had in mind when they used that word in the Constitution,” Schiff (D-Calif.) said, defining “bribery” as “the offer of or performance of official acts, in exchange for something of value; the betrayal of a public trust to get something of personal or political value.

“That’s exactly what’s gone on here.”

• Analysis: 5 takeaways from the House Intelligence Committee’s report

washington post logoWashington Post, As impeachment inquiry rages at home, Trump unsettles the world stage at NATO, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Michael Birnbaum, Dec. 3, 2019. To watch the U.S. president perform alongside other leaders was to witness his use of disequilibrium as political strategy — deployed throughout his presidency to keep everyone slightly off-kilter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Key Mueller witness, major Clinton and Trump donor charged with funneling millions in illegal contributions in 2016 elections, Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky​, Dec. 3, 2019. Trump associate and UAE adviser George Nader and Los Angeles-based Lebanese-American businessman Ahmad "Andy" Khawaja were among eight people charged in a 53-count indictment.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. judge weighs ordering State Dept. to release Volker, Sondland records about Ukraine, Spencer S. Hsu, Dec. 3, 2019. A federal judge is weighing whether to order the State Department to release internal communications between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and two of three men designated by President Trump to steer Ukraine policy — potentially sensitive records at the heart of an ongoing House impeachment inquiry.

U.S. District Judge Christopher R. “Casey” Cooper of Washington on Tuesday heard arguments in a public-records lawsuit seeking communications by Kurt Volker,
former State Department envoy to Ukraine, and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, with other State Department officials including Pompeo.

Volker, Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry called themselves the “three amigos,” and other U.S. diplomats said the trio was tasked by the administration with pushing Trump’s policies on Ukraine, bypassing and at times running counter to traditional diplomatic channels.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: House panel report says Trump ‘compromised national security’ to advance his political interests, John Wagner and Colby Itkowitz​, Dec. 3, 2019. The House Intelligence Committee will vote later today on forwarding the report to the House Judiciary Committee, which will consider impeachment proceedings.

U.S. House logoThe House Intelligence Committee released a report Tuesday that said President Trump placed his political interests above national interests in his conduct toward Ukraine.

Democrats are seeking to build a case that Trump leveraged military assistance and an Oval Office meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in exchange for investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden and a debunked theory alleging Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump called Democrats “very unpatriotic” for pursuing his impeachment while he is overseas meeting with NATO leaders.

washington post logoWashington Post, Impeachment hearings live updates: Trump calls Democrats ‘unpatriotic’ for pursuing case against him while he’s overseas, John Wagner and Colby Itkowitz, Dec. 3, 2019. President Trump called Democrats “very unpatriotic” Tuesday for pursuing his impeachment while he is overseas meeting with NATO leaders, as the House Intelligence Committee prepared to release a report detailing his conduct regarding Ukraine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Appeals court refuses to block House subpoena for Trump’s financial records, Ann E. Marimow and Renae Merle​, Dec. 3, 2019.  The New York-based appeals court upheld Congress’s broad investigative authority and ordered two banks to comply with House subpoenas for the president’s financial information.

The New York-based appeals court upheld Congress’s broad investigative authority and ordered Deutsche Bank and Capital One to comply with the House subpoenas for the president’s financial information. The court gave the president seven days to seek review by the Supreme Court in the case, which predates the public impeachment proceedings in the House.

In a 106-page ruling, the court said the House committees’ “interests in pursuing their constitutional legislative function is a far more significant public interest than whatever public interest inheres in avoiding the risk of a Chief Executive’s distraction arising from disclosure of documents reflecting his private financial transactions."

 washington post logoWashington Post, GOP embraces a debunked Ukraine conspiracy to defend Trump, Robert Costa and Karoun Demirjian, Dec. 3, 2019.  The adoption of the Russian-fueled claims illustrates a rapid transformation for a party that once celebrated a hawkish approach to Moscow.

washington post logowilliam barr new oWashington Post, Barr disputes inspector general’s finding about FBI’s Russia investigation, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian​, Dec. 3, 2019 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr, right, has privately said he doesn’t think the inspector general can conclude yet that the FBI had enough information in July 2016 to justify launching a probe of Trump campaign members.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats quietly debate expanding impeachment articles beyond Ukraine, Rachael Bade​, Dec. 3, 2019 (print ed.). Members of the House Judiciary Committee are discussing possible charges stemming from ex-special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report and even allegations of self-dealing by President Trump.

• Dismissing probe, House GOP defends Trump’s actions on Ukraine
• Schiff says Republican counter-report ‘ignores voluminous evidence’

2020 U.S. Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Kamala Harris is ending presidential bid, Chelsea Janes, Dec. 3, 2019. Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California announced that she is ending her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

katherine harrisIn a note to supporters, Harris, right, wrote that “my campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.”“It is with deep regret — but also with deep gratitude— that I am suspending my campaign today,” she wrote. “But I want to be clear with you: I am still very much in this fight.”

Harris had qualified for the December debate but was in single digits in both national and early-state polls. Harris, 55, entered the race a rising star. Her January announcement rally in Oakland drew more than 22,000 people. Trump, himself, praised Harris at the time for having the “best opening so far” and a “better crowd, better enthusiasm” than the other Democratic candidates.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, NAACP Takes On ‘Prison Gerrymandering,’ Gabriella Novello, Dec. 3, 2019. By counting inmates as residents of districts with prisons — rather than where they lived prior to their incarceration — rural communities often get federal funds they do not deserve. The NAACP now wants to put a stop to this practice.

Counting prisoners as residents where they are incarcerated — rather than where they lived before — often results in districts with prisons receiving more federal resources than those that need it more. This practice is known as “prison gerrymandering,” and the NAACP wants to put a stop to it.

Prisons in Connecticut, for example, are mostly located in rural, white communities — and that is where prisoners are counted as residents in the census. As a result, after redistricting in 2011, nine of the state house districts met federal minimum population requirements only by counting inmates as full-time residents.

What may seem like a small difference has sweeping consequences. States rely on census data to draw new legislative maps and allocate money. Nevertheless, a majority of states draw their maps in the state legislature, allowing elected officials to, in effect, choose their voters. So, when districts are drawn to include inmates as full-time residents, it disproportionately alters representation at the state and local level, according to the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative. In some cases, inmates are not counted at all in the census — as in Colorado and Mississippi.

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says China Trade War May Last Past Election; Markets Slump, Katie Rogers, Keith Bradsher and Ana Swanson, Dec. 3, 2019. President Trump signaled on Tuesday that he was in no rush to end a long trade war with China, suggesting that he could wait until after the 2020 presidential election to strike a deal and sending stock prices tumbling.

“I have no deadline,” Mr. Trump told reporters during a wide-ranging 52-minute appearance in London with Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary General. “In some ways I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal.”

He added: “But they want to make a deal now, and we’ll see whether or not the deal’s going to be right, it’s got to be right.”

Mr. Trump’s comments rattled European stock markets and sent the Dow Jones industrial average down 400 points by 10 a.m. They cast more uncertainty on an agreement he said he had made weeks ago with China’s top trade envoy, Vice Premier Liu He. They announced in mid-October that they had reached a so-called Phase 1 trade agreement that would allow Chinese purchases of American agricultural goods to resume while the United States would cancel additional tariffs scheduled for Oct. 15.

  • New York Times, China Gathers Blood Data in Mass DNA Collection, Hoping to Map Faces, Beijing’s pursuit of control over a Muslim ethnic group pushes the rules of science and raises questions about consent.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, NATO braces for contentious summit as Trump and other leaders gather, Michael Birnbaum, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker​, Dec. 3, 2019. President Trump has been less vocal in his criticism of allies’ lagging defense spending, but French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have stepped up as potential disrupters at the meeting.

President Trump, who has long demeaned his rivals for being laughed at around the world, found himself the scorned child on the global playground Wednesday as widely circulated video showed some of his foreign counterparts gossiping about and mocking him.

The video captured Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appearing to laugh Tuesday evening with French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and others about Trump’s performance during an earlier bilateral meeting and painted White House aides as agog at the president’s behavior.

And so it was Wednesday morning that Trump presented a sulking, brooding president as he engaged on the sidelines of the NATO summit at a secluded estate here outside London. Asked by journalists about Trudeau’s mockery, Trump fired back at the Canadian prime minister and then threatened to cancel a planned news conference at the summit’s conclusion.

washington post logoWashington Post, For Johnson and Corbyn, murky allegations of Russian meddling loom over Britain’s election, Adam Taylor, Dec. 3, 2019. Both Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have faced accusations. Right now, no one is quite sure who, if anyone, is hiding what.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls French president’s criticism of NATO ‘nasty’ and ‘disrespectful,’ Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Michael Birnbaum, Dec. 3, 2019. President Trump on Tuesday slammed as “very, very nasty” and “very disrespectful” recent comments by his French counterpart about the diminished state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance.

Referring to comments President Emmanuel Macron made last month in an interview with the Economist magazine — in which Macron described the “brain death” of NATO resulting from America’s failure to consult with its allies — Trump attacked Macron on the first day of the NATO 70th-anniversary summit in London, calling the comments “very insulting.”

• Trump announces Camp David for G-7 summit next year
• NATO hopes to get through 70th anniversary without explosions from Trump or Macron
• Trump says trade deal with China could wait until after 2020 election; Dow plunges 400 points

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he doesn’t know Britain’s Prince Andrew. They were both at a breakfast meeting in June, Jennifer Hassan, Dec. 3, 2019. “I don’t know him, no,” President Trump said, shaking his head — despite several photos of the two men together.

washington post logoWashington Post, North Dakota company that Trump touted gets $400 million border wall contract, Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey, Dec. 3, 2019 (print ed.). A company that President Trump urged military officials to hire for border wall construction has been awarded a $400 million contract to build a span of new barrier across an Arizona wildlife refuge, according to a Department of Defense announcement Monday.

North Dakota-based Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. won the contract to build in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Yuma County, Ariz., the Defense Department said, with a target completion date of Dec. 30, 2020.

Trump has repeatedly pushed for Fisher to get a wall-building contract, urging officials with the Army Corps of Engineers to pick the firm — only to be told Fisher’s bids did not meet standards. Trump’s entreaties on behalf of the company have concerned some officials who are unaccustomed to the president getting personally involved in the intricacies of government contracting.

More Claims Agains Epstein

New York Post, Jeffrey Epstein accused of sexually abusing 9 more women: suit, Priscilla DeGregory, Dec. 3, 2019. Nine more women have come forward to claim they were sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein, with the incidents spanning from 1985 to 2007 — and involving children as young as 13, according to a new lawsuit.

jeffrey epstein sex offenderThe women, who filed suit anonymously as Jane Does, say they were between the ages of 13 and 23 when they were either sexually assaulted or raped by the multimillionaire, and in some cases, his associates, the Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit says.

Seven of the women say “Epstein and his associates sexually assaulted, abused, battered and raped,” them, and for two of the victims, this happened “repeatedly,” claim the court papers, which were filed Tuesday.

The earliest incident occurred in 1985 when a then-23-year-old woman says “Epstein sexually assaulted, abused, and battered her,” the court documents allege.

The most recent abuse by the hedge-funder — who authorities say committed suicide Aug. 10 while in Manhattan federal lock up on sex-trafficking charges — happened to a 21-year-old in 2007, the suit says.

The accusers’ lawyer, Jordan Merson, said the alleged abuse occurred in New York City, Florida, New Mexico and the US Virgin Islands — and has left the women with mental health issues including post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and issues that led to attempted suicide.

Dec. 2

Impeachment Coverage

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP mounts campaign to delegitimize inquiry, Mike DeBonis and Felicia Sonmez, Dec. 2, 2019 (print ed.). Remarks from Republicans on Sunday reflect a conflict inside the republican elephant logoparty over the extent to which the president and his congressional defenders ought to participate in a process they have attacked as unfair and corrupt.

pat cipollone file croppedOn Sunday evening, the White House notified the House Judiciary Committee that it would not participate in its first impeachment hearing, scheduled for Wednesday.

Four constitutional scholars — three chosen by Democrats, one by Republicans — are expected to testify on the standards for impeachment.

In a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone, left, attacked the hearing — and the entire impeachment process — as “unfair.”

  • Washington Post, Despite intelligence assessment, Sen. Kennedy (R-La.) says both Ukraine and Russia interfered in 2016 election
  • New York Times, Next Step in Impeachment Case Is Likely to Be Loud and Messy
  • New York Times, The House Judiciary Committee is poised to swiftly draft and debate articles of impeachment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Nadler calls Trump’s bluff, Jennifer Rubin, Dec. 2, 2019. When the House Intelligence Committee held depositions of key witnesses, President Trump’s lawyers cried: “Unfair! Secret hearings!” In fact, a slew of Republicans had the right to ask questions, though some chose not to attend. When the hearings moved to a public phase, the White House hollered: “Unfair! Trump’s lawyer isn’t present!” When the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), invited Trump’s lawyers to attend, the response was: “Unfair! We’re not coming!”

What is unfair is that Trump and his lawyers have given up any semblance of fidelity to facts, have smeared distinguished witnesses, attempted to intimidate the whistleblower (and put his or her safety in jeopardy), hurled baseless accusations at House Democrats investigating presidential wrongdoing and, worst of all, obstructed Congress by refusing to jennifer rubin new headshotproduce documents and blocking critical witnesses from testifying.

There is no mystery as to what is going on here. Trump has no facts to put forth and no valid constitutional argument that bribery (specifically mentioned in the Constitution) and obstruction fail to meet the standard for impeachment. (As the Lawfare blog puts it, “There is every reason to believe that the drafters of the Constitution had in mind a scope that easily encompasses Trump’s conduct.") ... The transcript [of the July 25 call] makes clear that Trump tied together the request for a personal favor with the delivery of military aid.

Instead, Trump (like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) plays the same card that every corrupt authoritarian does in these situations: He attacks the investigators as corrupt and unfair.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine leader makes headway against corruption, but fight risks angering Trump, Michael Birnbaum and David L. Stern, Dec. 2, 2019 (print ed.). By the end of this month, volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotmore than 500 Ukrainian prosecutors will be out of their jobs as part of sweeping professional reviews under Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Among the prosecutors heading for the exit: a key Kyiv contact for Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The prosecutor purge is just one of several corruption-busting efforts set in motion by Zelensky, shown at right. But it puts into sharp relief Zelensky’s twin challenges — trying to balance his clean-government promises at home with his needs to keep President Trump from turning against him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Is the Founders’ Worst Nightmare, Bob Bauer (law professor and White House counsel under President Barack Obama, Dec. 2, 2019. Once in the Oval Office, a demagogue can easily stay there. Donald Trump’s Republican congressional allies are throwing up different defenses against impeachment and hoping that something may sell. They say that he didn’t seek a corrupt political bargain with Ukraine, but that if he did, he failed, and the mere attempt is not impeachable. Or that it is not clear that he did it, because the evidence against him is unreliable “hearsay.”

It’s all been very confusing. But the larger story — the crucial constitutional story — is not the incoherence of the president’s defense. It is more that he and his party are exposing limits of impeachment as a response to the presidency of a demagogue.

The founders feared the demagogue, who figures prominently in the Federalist Papers as the politician who, possessing “perverted ambition,” pursues relentless self-aggrandizement “by the confusions of their country.” The last of the papers, Federalist No. 85, linked demagogy to its threat to the constitutional order — to the “despotism” that may be expected from the “victorious demagogue.” This “despotism” is achieved through systematic lying to the public, vilification of the opposition and, as James Fenimore Cooper wrote in an essay on demagogues, a claimed right to disregard “the Constitution and the laws” in pursuing what the demagogue judges to be the “interests of the people.”

Should the demagogue succeed in winning the presidency, impeachment in theory provides the fail-safe protection. And yet the demagogue’s political tool kit, it turns out, may be his most effective defense. It is a constitutional paradox: The very behaviors that necessitate impeachment supply the means for the demagogue to escape it.

U.S. Justice System

ny times logoNew York Times, A Divided Left Confronts Losses in the Battle on Abortion, Elizabeth Dias and Lisa Lerer, Dec. 2, 2019 (print ed.).  Miscalculations, and an unexpected victory by President Trump, have put abortion access at its most vulnerable point in decades, and the left on the defensive.In a six-month period this year, states across the South and Midwest passed 58 abortion restrictions. Alabama banned the procedure almost entirely. Lawmakers in Ohio introduced a similar bill shortly before Thanksgiving. And in March, the Supreme Court will hear its first major abortion case since President Trump added two conservative justices and shifted the court to the right; how it rules could reshape the constitutional principles governing abortion rights.

For abortion opponents, this moment of ascendancy was years in the making. Set back on their heels when President Barack Obama took office, they started methodically working from the ground up. They focused on delivering state legislatures and gerrymandered districts into Republican control. They passed abortion restrictions in red states and pushed for conservative judges to protect them.

And then unexpectedly, and serendipitously, Mr. Trump won the White House. Ending legal abortion appeared within their reach.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I’m done being quiet’: Ex-FBI lawyer Lisa Page slams Trump’s ‘sickening’ attacks in first interview, Allyson Chiu, Dec. 2, 2019. The lone tweet appeared Sunday night on a profile bearing the name of former FBI attorney Lisa Page. “I’m done being quiet,” the tweet read.

peter strozk lisa pageIn the roughly two years since Page made national headlines after politically charged text messages between her and then-senior FBI agent Peter Strzok (shown in file photos) were released, the lawyer has refrained from publicly addressing the events that catapulted her into the center of a political firestorm and made her a repeated target of President Trump’s ire.

Now, in a wide-ranging interview (Lisa Page Speaks: ‘There’s No Fathomable Way I Have Committed Any Crime at All’), the 39-year-old has slammed Trump for his “sickening” attacks against her and revealed how she has struggled to keep her life together. “I had stayed quiet for years hoping it would fade away, but instead it got worse,” Page told the Daily Beast in her first public interview, which was published Sunday. “It had been so hard not to defend myself, to let people who hate me control the narrative. I decided to take my power back.

  •   Washington Post, Chicago police slammed a man’s head to a curb for allegedly spitting at an officer. He’s been charged with a felony.

U.S. 2020 Politics